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Our high street is dwindling. One tenth of shops in our town centres now stand empty. Last year saw retailers including Mothercare, New Look and Homebase close hundreds of stores, while Toys R Us and PoundWorld went out of business altogether.
With increasing pressures on the high street, many retailers have responded by upping their online shopping game. Marks and Spencer have brought their focus to home grocery delivery by partnering with Ocado, and flat pack furniture giant Ikea has boosted online sales by overhauling its delivery and digital operations, including a new app offering.
But does the last 12 months indicate that retail stores are dead, and the future is 100% online? The answer – absolutely not.
Last month, we discussed the four essentials for making your omni-channel business a success and how a physical store is still an essential part of that customer journey, especially with the rising popularity of click and collect. No matter your industry or audience, a successful omni-channel approach will offer your customers consistent messaging across all of your channels and help to create a seamless buying experience. Whether that’s your website, social media, eCommerce store or bricks and mortar outlet, the key factor it all comes down to is customer satisfaction.
So, while online shopping is taking precedent, there is still very much a place for a physical store. People still enjoy human interactions and many shoppers still like to see and physically hold products before making their purchases particularly if the item is of high value. Not only does having a face-to-face conversation with a sales person in-store add a social element to shopping, it usually means that a knowledgeable product expert is standing right in front of them. This enables the customer to feel like they have made a more informed buying decision, whilst offering the chance for sales staff to up and cross sell.
That said, having knowledgeable staff in-store is only going to help make a physical retail store successful if you can get the footfall in the first place. So what tactics are successful omni-channel retailers using in 2019, in order to get customers into their store branches?
As recent spending data from Barclaycard confirms, shoppers are less willing to pay for luxury non-essential items and services, but they’re however willing to splash out on experiences. This is something that successful high street retailers are cottoning on to, with well-known brands Hotel Chocolat, Lush and Games Workshop all cashing in on this trend. By giving their physical stores a destination status, these three retailers have been able to see growth where other companies are just seeing their profits fall.
Hotel Chocolat are the prime example of how to make a retail store into a must-visit destination for high street shoppers. The premium British chocolatier has opened 16 new shops in the past year, helping it to gain a 14% rise in sales to £132.5million. They have incorporated experiential elements into the heart of their stores, include cafés selling hot drinks and ice creams, after-hours chocolate tasting sessions and children’s workshops. All of which, Hotel Chocolat claims have helped it to ‘retain loyal fans and build brand credibility.’
Lush have also taken a similar approach. They create a sensory sensation in their stores by having all products at hand readily unwrapped to touch and smell. The approachable staff aren’t eager to rush a sale and will happily slather a face mask onto the back of your hand or throw a bath bomb into a bowl of water to show you how it disintegrates. The experience doesn’t stop there either, with many stores becoming increasingly interactive, even offering spas, beauty bars and facilities for private parties.
We also mentioned last month how Games Workshop have seen huge growth in the last year, with a 16% rise in revenue from over £221 million to £256 million. One of the main promoters of this growth is the fact they have pulled their stores to focus on their Warhammer offering. The mini stores don’t focus on sales, but instead offer experiences such as in-store battles or workshops on how to paint models. Their hands-on staff have helped to create regular customers by creating a sense of community. Each store has its own Facebook page where special events can be shared and the community can interact.
The sales growth that these brands have experienced in recent times shows that there’s clearly a benefit to creating experiences that drive customers into store. Although these experiences may come at a cost, the benefits include increased footfall and greater revenue.
Although destination stores aren’t going to work for every brand, it sets the precedence for retailers to find inventive ways to drive traffic into their stores. Big name clothing retailer Next for example, have focused on not creating an experience, but on making their stores essential stop offs. By expanding their Click and Collect services and adding an Amazon Counter to their stores where people can pick up their Amazon parcels, they are driving people into their stores where they’ll hopefully continue their shopping.
So in conclusion, there is a still very much a place for physical stores in the current, online-dominated retail environment, but how they’re being approached needs to change. Businesses need to not only bridge the gap between their online and in-store offering, but also consider interesting and exciting ways to get people into their physical shops. By analysing consumer expectations and creating in-store experiences that resonate with their values and lifestyle, you can make your physical store a valuable component within your omni-channel strategy.
For more information on how OrderWise can provide your business with an omni-channel software solution, call our team on 01522 704083.
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