Simply put, retailers that offer an “experience” are not only weathering the massive growth of online shopping, they are thriving in it. Now there is a flip side to that equation, which is that stores that are essentially a box with products are disappearing rapidly. This issue spans all sizes of retailers from specialty stores to big box retailers like Sports Authority or Babies R Us. How stores navigate and adapt to the changing landscape will ultimately determine their short and long-term viability.
So first, let’s focus on the challenges that face the online world. Yes, there are indeed some pitfalls. And some of these challenges should be viewed as opportunities for brick and mortar retailers.
1. In-depth product information
· While videos and content definitely help those that are willing to take the time to become educated on a product, the help of onsite staff is still faster. Team members can easily walk a customer through all of the benefits and features that might not be quickly obvious through the web.
2. Expertise around solution
· Online systems favor the sale of a specific product, not necessarily solving a problem. For example, in the realm of baby bottle feeding, there are quite a few components that actively go along with a parents need for a baby bottle system. Examples would be food processors, breast pumps, sterilizers, and bottle accessories. Stores that are successful at creating unique bundle solutions for their customers and specifically fine tuning these solutions to meet the needs of their customers in real time.
3. Connection to a community
· As we become more and more separated by social media, largely the opposite of the intended promise of technology, stores that are thriving are hosting a myriad of different events from their stores. While we’re on the road, we see tons of running stores hosting weekly running groups. Cycling shops have their “shop ride”. And baby stores have lactation specialists or parent “meet ups”. Regardless of the event, if you’re not building community or creating reasons for interaction, you could be missing out on a big way to connect with people in your community.
4. Speed of acquiring the product
· While one hour service delivery and drones potentially delivering products sounds interesting, there remains a healthy population that likes to shop and browse. And if they’ve had a compelling experience within your location or see the value of supporting you and your store, they are going to be less apt to turning around and ordering product online. The desire to support local is absolutely there within every city that we visit.
5. Ease of returning products that are unwanted or damaged
· One of the biggest challenges for online is the return of products. It’s not an easy process and often requires plenty of additional trips. While people are ordering products online that they have not experienced with in person to see if they will like them, the rate of return of a product will be higher. If a consumer has had the opportunity to interact with staff and had the chance to become educated on the ins and outs of a product, they are less likely to need to return it for failure to meet their needs or expectations.
6. Lag between when a product becomes popular and when its popular online
· Retailers that stay ahead of the research on new products and trends have a jump on online sales of a product. There is a lag between when a products becomes uber popular and when its popularity is evident through online channels. So consumers often rely on retailers to help them understand what is “hot” and trending.
So How Do You Get There?
Really it boils down to energy. If a store goes out of the way to educate consumers, provide additional services or an interesting shopping experience, it is obvious within the first few moments of walking into the establishment. Again for baby retailers, it’s coming up with creative bundles of products to help solve gifting, feeding, bedding or travel. Providing new or expecting parents with access to parent groups or experts. For running and cycling shops, it’s not only sponsoring local events, but also having running or cycling groups directly from the store. Having athletes or companies come in and talk about marathons, triathlons, ultra-events or some outdoor adventure. Even if the participation isn’t initially fantastic, as a customer of the store, it’s nice to know that your trusted shop is on top of the conversation.
And certainly the more educated the staff on the products, the more you’ll solve the needs of those walking into your store. Saving a few dollars becomes less compelling if someone is having a great experience. With our society that is becoming more disconnected, the retail environment can be a place of drawing in your community. So by all means ask your customers how you can better serve their needs. What additional value can you add back into their world to provide a greater experience?
What we will be doing to help
We will be providing both online seminars on the science behind our products and discussions on the products themselves. We’ll also be launching a series of discussions with experts in and around our field of safe consumer products via Facebook Live. We’ll of course alert everyone before so that you can be sure to join. We hope to combine a little bit of serious with a little bit of humor to help the world better understand some of the challenges that we are taking on. If there are ways that we can provide more assistance or information, please do not hesitate to let us know.
And as always, thanks for being a Thinker!