By Fan Bi, the CEO of Blank Label.
The news hasn't been kind to brick-and-mortar retailers in recent years, but not every company has to go the way of Toys R Us. Physical retail companies actually have an incredible opportunity in front of them to drive customer engagement in ways that were never possible in the past. Here are five tactics we've used in our business.
Create an Unparalleled Customer Experience
Don't try and beat e-commerce companies at their own game. It's unlikely that you'll ever be able to match them when it comes to factors such as convenience, selection and price, but you don't need to.
You have other tools available to you that they have to live without. You have attentive customers on your physical premises interacting with your staff. We make sure we have created customer experiences that take advantage of this fact by offering one-on-one appointments and complimentary in-store beverages. You can offer in-store demonstrations, host mixers where customers can mingle and get a behind-the-scenes look at the company, employ personal shoppers who can act as a concierge for customers while they are in the store.
Dig Deeply Into Your Data Analysis
E-commerce companies have truly blazed a trail in using big data to transform their operations. In typical fashion, Amazon dominates the conversation regarding e-commerce data analytics. All you have to do is look at how their foray into AI-based home assistants has transformed their data gathering operation to understand that they're onto something big.
You may not have as much customer data as Amazon, but in the era of big data, you still have access to plenty of information you can use in innovative ways, most of it self-reported. In fact, customers actually expect you to use their personal information (responsibly, of course!) to deliver a higher-quality experience. We combine the order dates, items purchased and cities our clients are in to provide relevant product recommendations on a timely basis.
Take a Marketing Cue From Small, Local Retailers
Most single-shop retailers have to rely on being hyperlocal in order to survive in a world dominated by Amazon, Target and Walmart. Therefore, they excel at strategies such as interacting with customers on social media and driving store visits through localized coupons and deals. These kinds of marketing initiatives build loyal audiences who frequently turn into repeat customers, even if there are less expensive options available. We will allow our individual store team members to take over our company social accounts. For example, when our Atlanta store posted an Instagram story, we got a spike in inquiries asking about our store location.
Use Customer Reviews to Your Advantage
No sane person is going to argue that the online review system isn't plagued by problems. Companies are trying to circumvent the issues through tactics such as verified purchase reviews, but the potential for an irrationally angry customer to leave a poor review still exists. But the benefits still outweigh the drawbacks, most notably because so many customers are now attuned to be wary of a seller if customer reviews are hidden or non-existent. Understand that negative reviews will occur and you can't try to cover them up. In fact, they offer you a potential opportunity for service recovery by reaching out to the customer.
Blur the Line Between the Digital and the Physical
Location services, personalized apps and notifications have made it easier than ever to blend the digital and physical retail experiences. You can take advantage of these tools by using them to connect with your customers in unique ways. Think about how you can engage with them by incentivizing customers to come in your store. Allow them to unlock personalized coupons through location services, give them the ability to add items to their cart on the app and then pick them up in the store, educate them through extended videos or presentations when they scan a QR code.
If you have physical stores or are thinking about going into brick-and-mortar, just remember that there are distinct advantages of being able to interact with your customers in-person and to leverage those to the best of your ability.
Fan Bi is the CEO of Blank Label, an award-winning custom menswear brand.