The shift in consumer habits has led to a widespread retail cleanse. Most of the biggest retailers in the United States have shut down or declared bankruptcy and it shouldn’t be surprising if this trend continues. More stores have closed in 2019 than the entire year of 2018. According to a UBS investment report, an estimated 75,000 stores will be shut down by 2026. It’s clear the “retail apocalypse” is far from over.
Americans prefer to shop online, a trend that isn’t about to disappear. The rise of e-commerce like Amazon is proving tough competition for retailers to attract customers to their brick and mortar stores. Businesses are preferring to spend on sales strategies and digital marketing instead of maintaining a physical location. Small businesses and specialty retailers are taking a hit from the pressure for higher minimum wages, soaring shipping costs, and the rise of the big names of e-commerce. Here’s how small businesses can build a bunker to save themselves from retail extinction:
Cater to Online Customers
This is one of the surest ways to help your business to start shifting everything online. E-commerce sales are expected to grow to over $4 billion by 2020. On average an American household spends more than $5000 per year buying things online. This means without an online platform, you may be missing out on business opportunities, but you shouldn’t shut down your physical location entirely. In fact, sites like Amazon are expanding to physical locations (while it seems the rest of the retail world is doing the opposite) by acting as a showcase for their online site and building loyalty. Build a great website with up-to-date contact information and with a good marketing plan you should be able to create considerable traction to your retail store.
Take on Social Commerce
Social commerce is the latest elegant fusion of marketing with commerce, revolutionizing both. Social media like Instagram and Facebook are going transactional, enabling consumers to purchase items straight from the platform, without visiting your website. Through aid advertising on these platforms, you can target your exact audience right down to their gender, age, geography and even their tastes. Reviews on products can also be directly commented and shared, building trust and loyalty around your retail brand to others of a similar demographic. 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust their friends suggesting a brand to them. Build (and put work in) your business social media handles, and understand the audience that visits these platforms. Post images of latest products, customer interactions, and just the every-day life at your store.
Understand the Trust Economy
Understand and invest in the “trust economy”. Reviews of your business online and social media are displays of the relationship your business has with customers and should be taken very seriously. Maintain a set of rules for your online relationship management and how your business should respond to queries and comments, so any of your employees will be able to handle your online presence when you aren’t available. Promote good feedback and compensate for the negative feedback. Once your customers understand that you care about them they’ll care about you. Utilize and share user-generated content to generate trust among potential customers, and keep a friendly direct tone while communicating online.
Balance Between Online and Offline
Despite the massive shift to online shopping, different target groups and audiences prefer to shop in different ways. Showrooming for instance, is when a customer visits your physical store but soon after searches for the same products online. This is done to check for cheaper prices or preferred delivery options. Webrooming is when a customer checks out a product online and then chooses to visit the store to purchase it in person. In this case, price may not be a factor but the customer prefers getting the product right away. So whether your customers prefer to showroom or webroom, your business should cater to that. Several businesses make this intentional including more product options, sizes and colors on their e-commerce site and taking their customers through it when they personally visit. This can also vary depending on the product your business sells.
Reinvent Your Retail Space
A successful business should adapt to the needs of its customers. Cut-down waiting times by allowing checkout to be done anywhere in your store with a tablet POS system. Stay payment agnostic by accepting the common means of payment from your customers. Plan out your customer journey and work on ways you can improve that.
Although it seems like it, not everything has to depend on your online presence alone. Recreate your retail store presence by hiring new staff, getting a new POS system or even changing the interiors. In case you need a hand with immediate financing, you can always avail a short-term retail financing option.