How to ensure you remain relevant to your customers in a fast-changing retail world

How to ensure you remain relevant to your customers in a fast-changing retail world

Space Race

We’ve all heard the doomsayers peddling the line that “clicks not bricks” is the way of the future striking fear into retailers’ hearts, however retail statistics in New Zealand are tracking well according to Stats NZ’s latest figures.

The total volume of retail sales rose 2.0 percent for the June 2017 quarter, compared with the previous quarter (seasonally adjusted) with some sectors doing really well.

Food and beverage sales were up along with electrical and electronic goods and hardware, building and gardening supplies.

But there’s no denying that retail businesses cannot keep offering the same service model as they have traditionally done in the face of the growing online global marketplace.

What retailers can offer is face-to-face personal service and, a unique in-store experience. Customers need to have a compelling reason to visit a retail outlet so make it worth their while – chances are they could source the product more cheaply online so ensure that you are adding something of value to the interaction and the transaction.

The buzz word “retailtainment” is finding favour internationally. Author George Ritzer describes "retailtainment" as "the use of ambience, emotion, sound and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy."

How could you bring a sense of engagement and entertainment to your retail offering? Try interactive displays, art installations, in-store coffee kiosks, live music – let the imagination go wild.

There’s also a trend internationally for smaller-format retail premises offering a curated selection of stock and a more intimate shopping experience. This is a great option for those wishing to trial a concept or test the market as less space is needed and there’s less outlay. Minimise the number of choices on offer, ensure that the product lines you carry are unique and relevant to your target shopper – sell better, with less.

Relationships are at the heart of most successful businesses and people generally want to establish rapport with other people – not a device – so leverage off the opportunities that you’re faced with when a customer fronts up to your physical store.

Here’s some other points to consider:

• Upskill your staff to make sure that they know the stock inventory well

• Understand the back stories to the products you sell and, if there are real points of difference, engage in conversation with your customers in-store around this

• Look at ways that you could personalise your interactions with your customers by way of follow-up and reward opportunities that are relevant to them – not a generic loyalty programme

• Don’t underestimate the power of social media as a word-of-mouth platform – especially among younger demographics – for both positive and negative feedback

• You don’t want to lose a sale at crunch time – are your point-of-sale payment options keeping pace with technology and expectations?

• Give customers a reason to come into your store – and then give them a reason to come back

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