Brick and mortar is still alive, retail experts keep it growing
Despite steep competition from online retailers, recent research shows brick and mortar stores remain the preferred place to shop for 54 percent of consumers.
While online shopping can appeal to a desire for almost-instant gratification, shopping at a physical store allows consumers to interact with products and knowledgeable sales associates in ways they can’t online. This is especially beneficial to consumers looking to purchase from a brand they’re unfamiliar with, where the benefit of interaction quickly outweighs the benefits of increased choice and lower effort.
This opportunity to interact also drives higher customer satisfaction and is one of the reasons why brick-and-mortar stores’ return rate sits at a low 10 percent, while online stores hover around 30 percent.
Brick-and-mortar’s true value rests in customer experience
This trend of seeking out interaction with a product or store associate points to a needed shift in focus to the retail store experience. This idea is already taking shape with many stores changing the physical landscape of their stores to create new and enhanced experiences.
Saks is bringing some of the best qualities of physical and online stores together with their new Salesfloor.net campaign. Shoppers can get recommendations from store associates and make purchases online, meaning they won’t be navigating through hundreds of product choices alone and can make a purchase without leaving home.
Other retailers are keeping the focus on what brick-and-mortar can provide that online stores can’t: in-person experiences
Nike’s new store features a mini basketball court, treadmill and enclosed soccer arena where customers can put their new sneakers to the test. Nordstrom is paring down its stores’ square footage and focusing on a personal shopper experience in their new Nordstrom Local store.
Perhaps one of the most surprisingly successful shifts has been made by Best Buy. To compete with online retailers, the company focused on retraining its employees so they could make better product recommendations. And a spin-off of their popular Geek Squad team provides customers free in-home consultations about what product they should buy and how best to install it.
The surprising thing is, Best Buy didn’t need to change its brick-and-mortar stores to compete with online retailers.
Instead, a renewed focus on its employees’ education turned Best Buy’s sales associates into product experts whose expertise has a greater impact on customer satisfaction and store sales.
Retail success requires retail experts
But educating store associates is just one half of the equation to brick-and-mortar’s success.
The explosion and continued growth of influencer marketing creates the perfect intersection where retail stores can provide value, gain outreach, and boost sales.
Influencer marketing is still top of mind for most marketers, with 39 percent planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2018. The success of influencer marketing — influencer content consistently outperforms brand-generated content — is underscored by its cost-effectiveness. Most companies see influencer marketing generate about $6.50 for every $1 they invest in it.
With transparency issues top of mind, many brands are turning to in-house influencers to ensure influencer content represents their values. Retailers shouldn’t overlook the fact that they already have access to in-house influencers in the form of store associates.
Many of these retail associates are already passionate about sharing recommendations with customers. They actively search for opportunities to learn more about the products they sell, and when they engage with educational brand content they tend to spend more time interacting with it than the average sales associate.
Retail experts on Experticity spend an average of 25 minutes on the site per visit. And they view an average of 35 Educational-Games each time they visit. That’s 35 pieces of educational content that gives them the knowledge they need to give better recommendations and sell more. Eighty seven percent more, in fact.
No one is better equipped to provide trusted content that resonates with consumers than retail associates. Content is king, and expert-created content is trusted and personalized, two themes that, when approached wrong, can be costly. According to Accenture, a lack of trust and personalization cost businesses $756 billion in 2016 — and led 43 percent of consumers to switch brand loyalties.
Retail experts on Experticity have made measurable impacts on awareness and sales through trusted, personalized content. Photos and recipes shared on Traeger.com boosted the brand’s average order value by 18 percent. And expert product reviews and social shares helped Reebok earn a “Best Debut” award for its new Floatride shoe.
With a focus on education, brick-and-mortar stores can transform their sales associates into retail experts. And with knowledgeable retail experts, they can keep their business growing.