How To Make Brick And Mortar Stores Better Than The Internet
By Bob Phibbs
Online mattress company Casper is opening 200 stores across the US; online consignment store ThredUp is planning 100, and don’t forget about original online retailer Apple, who already has over 500 brick and mortar stores.
Why are so many online brands opening physical retail stores?
Because the Internet is fast, friction-free, butcold.
In other words, online shopping has limits.
Brick and mortar physical stores can do something for shoppers online can’t, provide a feeling.
More than that, brick and mortar stores can provide a feeling that people matter.
Yes, the converse is true as well that when you don’t make people feel they matter, they abandon your brand in droves, but that’s not the point of this post.
To make your in-store shopping experience more fun, more engaging, and let’s face it betterthan shopping for your products from an online competitor, give shoppers the feeling they matter by providing...
A sense of humor like that best friend who makes you smile. Retail is about treating yourself or someone else to a present. It should be fun and not serious. You can interact with someone, show them a funny product, and ask, “Have you ever seen something so ridiculous?” You can find a way to laugh about something you said or a mistake you yourself made when buying something. Unless you know your shopper really well or have mad skills in communication, you shouldn’t try to get a laugh at their expense as it can easily backfire.
Practicing this would be a great exercise to work on in your daily huddle with your crew. You can ask them to share a customer exchange where there was laughter; you can role-play what someone could say about a product, and you can ask for ideas for how to make shopping fun. You don’t have to have all the answers but you do have to make the sense of laughter relatable to your associates. Again, you don’t want laughter at the expense of others, but you do want it to make your own job more fun.
A sense of discovery like spotting land after months at sea. Brick and mortar can capture a shopper’s imagination with unexpected items. Great merchandising can do this, keeping your store uncluttered can do this, and highlighting something extraordinary in an unexpected area of your store can do this. A green dress featured near a baby stroller might be perfectly appropriate in-store but wacko online. That’s the point, shoppers are open to distraction and discovery in store, where online they’re on a mission.
But also a sense of belonging and familiarity like shopping from your friend’s closet. This can be summed up in the Cheers TV show lyrics which say, “You want to go where everyone knows your name.” A relaxed and inviting store that is more of a living space than a retail space is the new norm. Couches in the middle of the store where shoppers can read or have a beverage, musical instruments looking like a band just stopped playing, and a coffee bar in the corner all give a more relaxed vibe. Urban Outfitters does this really well.
There’s a place for neat merchandise but don’t make it neat for neat’s sake; a few jeans not folded perfectly on the table or a blouse draped across a display make it look like touching is encouraged, not forbidden. And for gosh sakes, lose those do not touch signs at once.
A sense of pride like it is your own personal store. When shoppers feel the merchandise, the lighting, and the personnel are welcoming and comfortable, they feel they belong. They look at your store as their store. That starts with giving your employees enough training and freedom to bring the best of themselves, the playful, the curious, and the empathic to work every day. That happens when you have pride in, not obligation to, your store.
A sense of awesome shoppers can’t wait to tell their friends about. Raving fans have to go online and share their feelings and experiences. They don’t have to be incented with money; they want to share their discovery with their social tribe.
People don’t rave about average.
That’s a high mark to meet, but you’ll know you’re gaining ground by looking at your Facebook recommendations, your hashtag on Twitter and your site traffic. Make sure you find ways to share the best recommendations and reviews prominently on your site and via your own social network because new shoppers will believe a reviewer they’ve never met much more than they will trust your words about your own customer service.
How to compete with Amazon and against online retailers isn’t easy but the reality is it is no different than competing against other brick and mortar retailers.
Until and unless you create an engaging shopping experience based on providing your shoppers with a sense of discovery, a sense of fun, a sense of belonging and a sense of pride, you’re pretty much like 90% of your competition trying to make money from the same brands they are.
Crafting a retail strategy takes time and effort but so does any business worth giving your all to.
And if you aren’t willing to give you all to it, it’s probably time for a change.
To learn more about crafting a retail strategy click the link below.
Get our weekly newsletter updates. Read our mailing consent T&Cs here
The Retail Doctor's FREE Retail Assessment Tool
Where does your store excel and what do you need to fix? Find out where you stand against best practices in retail sales training, marketing, social media and more with The Retail Doctor's Retail Assessment Tool.