Originally published May 29, 2018. Updated for relevancy May 9, 2023.
If you're paying attention to the doom and gloom associated with retail, it might seem that the exuberance of online shopping - It’s SO easy - has pushed brick-and-mortar stores out to pasture.
That's just not the case.
The majority of customers still prefer in-store purchases for most types of products. And will for the foreseeable future.
While a number of high-profile retail chains have gone out of business, their downfall was debt more than a lack of shoppers.
To succeed, you have to look for creative retail business ideas. You'll find many of them revolve around ways to reach customers where they are, engage them in new ways, and know them individually.
Regarding driving sales, retailers shouldn’t be afraid to try innovative things. In Shanghai, Hema Supermarket recently added an adult section to its app. Now consumers can receive delivery of condoms, pregnancy tests, sex toys, and more in 30 minutes or less.
It is easy to scoff at retail store ideas like this one. Still, the retailer has tapped into a fundamental human need and has raised expectations from consumers of short delivery of on-demand purchases.
Find inspiration with these retail business ideas
Here are four creative ways to serve your retail customer base across channels and in real locations.
1. Be available where your customers are
Domino's Pizza is not a new business; it was established in 1960. But they always aim to push the envelope to remain relevant and connected to their core customers. It used to be that restaurants were all about location. One of Domino’s interesting business ideas lets customers order to hotspots at places without an address. This is one of those great retail business ideas other businesses should consider.
Hotspots include outdoor parks, beaches, Central Park in New York City, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. As long as you are GPSable, you can get their pizza anywhere.
2. Take knowing your customer to the next level
Lolli & Pops, who bills themselves as an encyclopedia of the world’s finest candies and confections, implemented facial recognition programs in their stores. This allows their sales associates to see VIP shopper preferences and even allergy information so they can offer new creations and locate old favorites quickly.
Yes, it could have a bit of a creep factor, but it also cuts down on having to explain many things each time. Any time-saving strategy is good for your retail store, especially if your employees are swamped with work.
3. Make shopping seamless across all channels
Everlane, an ethically sourced clothing company, lets customers see exactly how much the materials and labor cost. Now they have integrated their brick-and-mortar and online stores using an integrated ID system.
Like at the big box retailers, shoppers can return items purchased online in-store; they can shop wallet-less and apply any existing credits to their purchase, whether online or in-person.
It’s a great idea for every retail store and one way to prevent your store from becoming a showroom for Amazon.
4. Remove the guesswork and build a digital profile for shoppers
ModCloth started as an online fashion-design company offering clothing inspired by yesteryear. At their new stores in Austin and San Francisco, shoppers work with an in-store, in-person stylist and have an introductory conversation that covers personal style, wardrobe goals, and budget. The stylist takes detailed measurements and gives a guided tour around the showroom to showcase the best styles and fits for the customer’s individual body type and needs.
The appointments themselves are free, and there’s zero purchase obligation. This leaves the customer free to shop their omnichannel empire, confident that whatever they purchase, online or in-store, will fit. This saves the customer in-store time and makes their online purchases doubt-free.
More importantly, this retail store idea creates free customer value and allows the salesperson to build rapport quickly.