One of the greatest bands of all time sang, “Got to get you into my life, into my life,” and now retailers are singing “Got to get you into my store, into my store.”
Internet retailers have continued to gain website customers, especially around the holidays. As we know, e-commerce is growing faster than any other retail segment. This doesn’t mean, however, that brick-and-mortar retails are dying. It means that brick-and-mortar stores simply offer a different experience to the customer.
Do You Want to Know A Secret? The reality is: approximately nine out of 10 sales are still made in stores.
Shopping is more than just purchasing. A recent study showed nearly 80 percent of respondents said instant gratification was the key benefit to buying in person; 75 percent said the experience of human connection was the reason they bought in store. People want to get by with a little help from their friends, have lunch, come together, and sometimes just get out of the house. These personal interactions help maintain the attraction of buying in person, despite the ease and convenience of online shopping.
Therefore, retailers must stress the importance of customer service and train their employees to provide a level of service that will influence customers to return. Say Hey Jude when Jude walks into the store, say hello, (and) goodbye, and offer friendly assistance when customers ask for Help! Remember, the love you make is equal to the love you take.
As we’ve discussed before, in addition to excellent customer service, brick-and-mortar stores must also be able to distinguish their value from e-commerce by providing experiences for their customers. Money alone can’t buy me love. Some innovative examples come from very traditional brick-and-mortar retailers such as Kohls and Walmart. Kohls recently invited Santa to visit with children in all 1,154 stores in the U.S. and Walmart offered free food, apple cider, and holiday cheer from employees dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters and Santa suits. These are excellent examples of stores providing added value for their customers in the form of seasonal experiences. When customers are made to feel that the stores they visit simply want them to have a wonderful Christmastime (OK—not The Beatles, but Paul McCartney!), this will only serve to build positive brand affinity.
It may be a long and winding road back, but brick-and-mortar stores are not a thing of yesterday.
Steve Zimmerman is Managing Director of Brokerage at The Retail Connection in Dallas.