With consumers spending increasing amounts of money online, brick-and-mortar retailers need to step up efforts to win back some of those dollars.
The good news is that total retail sales are up overall. Sales rose 5.8% in 2019, according to MarketWatch. Consumers are still shopping in earnest. However, the fact that online retail sales increased by 14.9%, (according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, this presents a challenge for physical storefronts.
Fortunately, brick-and-mortar businesses that are thriving in this era of online consumerism can serve as role models. Here are some steps you can take immediately to attract new customers and foster loyalty that leads to higher sales.
Make your business easy to find
Make sure customers who are hunting for what you sell can find you quickly. Whether your business is car tires, car rentals, or doughnuts, you want your business' name to show up at the top of the search results of potential customers in or near your ZIP code if they're looking for the service you provide.
To ensure it does, set up a free Google My Business profile, recommends Stacy Caprio, founder of Accelerated Growth Marketing. "Locally, your business will be able to gain a large portion of search traffic, which helps you compete when you have a Google My Business listing," she says.
Hold in-store events
Give customers a reason to travel to your store rather than buy from the comfort of their couch. With online shopping so quick and convenient, you need to create a new occasion to spark their interest and entice them to visit your location.
Sonja Rasula, founder of Unique Markets, which sets up indoor pop-up markets, recommends hosting everything from trunk shows for clothing to Q&As with authors or artists to a monthly in-store-only sale.
"Invite influencers and people with audiences to hold events there, where their friends and family get to come in and save 20% that night," she says.
One example: Bookseller Barnes & Noble used to hold midnight release parties for Harry Potter installments, which led to lines around the block.
"In today's competitive world of retail, where consumers can shop online for many different options, in-store owners and managers must offer outstanding customer experience and service to attract and keep shoppers," says Carlos Castelán, managing director of retail consulting firm The Navio Group.
"The biggest and most successful customer-experience trend in 2020 will be the ones where the primary aim is to drive customer engagement rather than just trying to sell more products."
Castelán cites several success stories in that regard, such as mattress company Casper, which "has nap pods in its New York store that people can rent for a 30-minute nap."
Or luxury parka purveyor Canada Goose, which has a 10-degree cold room in its Toronto store, with real ice and snow, to give customers a full sense of how warm its $1,000 coats are. And JCPenney is remodeling its stores to include fitness studios, videogame lounges, and style classes, he says.
Create a custom product
Samuel Tang, designer, gemologist, and owner of custom jewelry boutique Joy Creations suggests creating custom products only available through your retail outlet. Customers "will be attracted to you since you're offering something no one else does," he says.
This strategy has long worked well for major retailers, like Target, which partners with well-known designers and brands, including Lilly Pulitzer, Hunter, and Chip and Joanna Gaines, for example.
These companies have created custom product lines only available at Target. Similarly, Macy's has partnered with Martha Stewart on a line of home goods, and Sherwin-Williams carries a line of Pottery Barn-branded paint hues. Exclusivity can be a big draw.
"When a retailer can win on experience, they have more of the customer's attention, and that means a higher likelihood of purchasing products and becoming more loyal," Castelán says. Just because online sales figures are rising doesn't necessarily mean failure for brick-and-mortar locations.
Find out more about Managing Your Business