3 Ways To Strengthen Your Brick-and-Mortar Store in 2021, Part 2
This is part 2 of an article for brick-and-mortar retailers looking to re-enter the post-Covid economy with all cash registers firing. Find part 1 here.
Expecting employees to magically create rewarding interactions with no selling process on your sales floor is delusional. Good relationships, like eating well and getting enough exercise, are not just a matter of luck.
Managers share the blame for not creating a great customer satisfaction experience, as they are frequently focused on tasks and rarely steer employees to the important goal of developing their rapport-building skills.
Owners and managers must provide associates with the skills to forge deeper ties to people than tapping a heart emoji on Instagram. They probably don’t have the soft skills you do, but unless you train them they’ll be stuck, unable to converse effectively with strangers (your customers!).
As a result, we as a culture lose too. These spokes of connection create a community first between two strangers, then within your entire business, and on to your entire community. Employees must be taught that if they are to claim the mantle of having a vibrant company culture, they must create it.
The time is now!
Shoppers are shopping at a rate not seen since the mid-2000s, but you must be brilliant on the basics. Yes, online shopping will continue to improve, and there will be all sorts of distractions (like AI and virtual reality) that will continue to make brick-and-mortar retailers feel as antiquated as the doily your great aunt places under her mint tea pitcher in the summer – quaint but irrelevant.
And while many stores haven’t changed much since the mid- 2000s, physical stores can still be incredibly relevant – if you own the strength of your physical location, and don’t give in to crying the blues with a desperation that seeps into your every email, promotion, and new hire.
Don’t just take my word for it. Katia Beauchamp, CEO of Birchbox, predicted that customers will increasingly visit stores to get curated experiences from shop representatives. For brands to meet this demand, they must have well-trained staff who understand products inside and out and who can offer personalized advice. According to Fast Company, “In Beauchamp’s view, the one thing the Internet does not provide is human contact.” That was from an online retailer who sees the enormous staying power and opportunity in retail stores.
The power of retailing
When you own your power to entice and convert shoppers, you find new ways to do more to bridge online and offline by looking at your customers’ frustrations. For example, I’m always shocked at the number of pet stores bemoaning how they lose dog food sales to online retailers. They don’t seem to understand that their customers don’t want to lug a 30-pound bag home every couple of weeks.
If they owned the role that their physical store could be their community’s source for pet food, then when pet owners came in to shop for something smaller, they could build on that opportunity and set up an auto-ship of dog food... and replace the online retailer. To own the fact that you are a physical store, lead with your strengths. Here’s how to start:
- Offer curated variety so shopping doesn’t feel like work.
- Offer immediate satisfaction so customers don’t have to wait for a product’s arrival.
- Offer a personal touch so they get what’s right for them, not just what’s on sale.
- Feature displays that show how seemingly unrelated items work together.
- Remove frustrations from shoppers’ lives in a human way that being online or using chatbots simply cannot.
Build your own list to truly see all you can offer that your online competitors can’t. Then commit to both a rigorous initial training and ongoing retraining program in your stores so you don’t become a victim by ignoring your major strength: your physical store where people make connections.
What kind of retail world do you want to create, and what might your role in it be as the pandemic subsides? It’s time for brick-and-mortar retail stores to own up to the fact that they have what customers want after surviving the pandemic. From that place of strength, they can discover new ways to create an exceptional experience, rather than a warehouse of stuff.
Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” is a 30-plus year retail expert with a proven track record to help brands lift sales, turn their retail staff into real salespeople, and get more out of their store traffic with innovative retail marketing tactics. Contact him at 562-260-2266, or visit his website, where this article first appeared.
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