In many ways, the store is invincible. Every time a new channel emerges or matures and tries to knock it down – eCommerce, mCommerce, social shopping – it undergoes a metamorphosis, finding a new role within the omnichannel mix.
That being said, it’s not flawless. Each epoch (retail moves too fast to call it an era) brings new challenges in making sure the store resonates with how people want to shop.
The British Retail Consortium published some insights around this in its ‘Digital High Street 2020 Report’, released earlier this year. Although focused on the UK, there was a lot within the study that can be applied to bricks-and-mortar globally.
One argument that came through loud and clear is that the fundamentals of physical shopping haven’t changed, only the way we define them. To be a success, stores must be accessible, authentic, diverse, and economically strong. They must be relevant and engaging. And most of all, they must be convenient.
The last point is particularly poignant in 2015. In several markets we’ve seen a shift away from big box retail towards local c-stores, driven by evolving consumer behaviour. Instead of doing a ‘big shop’ every week or two, more and more people are choosing to shop ‘little and often’, to acquire goods on a needs-must basis, and reduce wastage in the process.
This shifting behaviour is having a significant impact on the optimisation of bricks-and-mortar retail. Speed and satisfaction are now critical to what constitutes a good customer experience, and this means equipping the store and staff in new ways.
For starters, retailers need greater access to data at store level, to understand specific trends among their shoppers. Being able to analyse the customer journey and frequency of visits can enable store managers to adjust layout and product placement, in a way that allows visitors to get in, get what they want, and get out.
However, being convenient goes beyond reducing the time customers spend in a store – after all, make the visit too quick and retailers lose out on valuable upselling opportunities. True convenience is about helping to solve shopper queries as quickly as possible, and this is where technology such as mobile POS comes into its own.
There’s been plenty of noise around the use of tablet technology in flagship stores, but why aren’t more retailers utilising them at convenience sites, where time is of the essence and space is at a premium? Giving staff the tools to better serve customers, check inventory and place orders or take payments from anywhere in the aisles is surely the ultimate in convenient service.
What’s more, taking technology to the customer builds on the personalisation that retailers are trying to introduce across all channels. Drawing down online data, and any information from previous store purchases, isn’t just useful for tailoring loyalty offers – it can speed up encounters, by enabling repeat ordering or calculating product recommendations at the touch of a button.
We’ve spoken recently about how the store needs to work harder to meet omnichannel shopper demands, because there’s not a widespread use of data and technology to drive better targeted bricks-and-mortar encounters. Convenience stores could be an interesting arena to pilot a new type of customer experience.
To optimise your bricks-and-mortar presence, find out more about iVend Retail’s store technology.