The majority of U.S. retail sales still occur in brick and mortar stores, but maybe not for long. Online shopping has drawn dollars away from big box stores, which continue to struggle to attract customers given the convenience and discounts online retailers have to offer.
The giants of e-commerce are also swaying business in their favor through ever-shifting pricing, big data analytics, and a restless approach to capitalizing on technology. But physical stores are starting to catch up, increasingly adding new technology and methods to better serve customers. While some are taking a piecemeal approach and adopting new technologies as they go, the stores that stand a chance of competing with online retailers will look to integrate solutions for a better overall customer experience.
Consider these five ways technology can get shoppers offline and back to your business.
1. Lock down their data, and yours. Recent data breaches at big box stores have made headlines and for good reason: people should be able to shop without their banking information falling into the wrong hands. Register manufacturers understand how important security is and continue to make enhancements, and businesses large and small should rush to make transactions as secure as possible. But security goes beyond highly publicized breaches. If your employees use tablets or mobile devices in the store to ring up purchases or monitor inventory, make sure you have a mobile device management (MDM) solution that secures those devices and the content stored on them. Installing two-step authorization protocols and lock-down features will ensure that a lost device doesn’t result in loss of critical data as well.
2. Use big data to drive sales. Big data offers an unparalleled advantage in any marketplace, offering insights into customer tastes and trends that can better inform all aspects of your business strategy. Capitalizing on this data could mean releasing the details of a sale when the data shows your customers are ready to buy, or better understanding the influence of shelf space — what’s selling well and what’s not and why. This knowledge can provide an advantage by maximizing the potential for sales.
3. Get digital in the store. One reason brick and mortar stores have been hurt by online sales is static prices. An online business can adjust prices every few hours while large retail chains are often handicapped by paper or plastic price tags that can’t quickly be swapped. Using digital price tags, however, allows your business to instantly change pricing and reflect inventory, as well as provide price comparisons and current promotions. SHI recently worked with a nationwide department store to equip its shelves with digital tags and configure communication devices that transmit price changes, automating the process. Though these digital tags and transmitters may have a higher upfront cost, they can pay for themselves by giving customers competitive prices against large online retailers.
4. Focus on mobility for your workforce. One of the challenges of implementing mobile solutions in a retail environment is managing the devices, whether across one store or hundreds. Business owners interested in equipping their salesforce and employees with mobile devices should opt for a device that’s easy to use, simple to execute, offers security, and has a defined business purpose. Because unsatisfied customers usually walk away, addressing an unhappy customer and remedying a problem with a mobile solution can bring them back for another visit. For example, an employee equipped with a tablet can check inventory on the spot, and if a product is sold out, offer to order the same product from the warehouse and ship it for free, or email a discount for the next time they visit.
5. Embrace the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things, in which devices and appliances can communicate with one another, will offer retailers a number of new opportunities. Smartphones’ location data and Internet connections make it possible to interact with them at any location using what is sometimes known as iBeacon technology. Using beacon technology, a retail store can connect with potential customers walking down the street by providing information about the store or publicizing a deal. By connecting your customers with current promotions and new information about products when they’re nearby, you can enhance the customer experience and increase sales.
Though there’s no silver bullet, a carefully planned and executed technology push can help businesses bring customers back into brick and mortar stores, especially if retailers take an integrated approach and develop a solution for their store that draws on multiple technologies in sync. Business owners that embrace technology to guard customer information, harness big data, offer employees mobility, improve pricing competitiveness, and find new ways to reach and please consumers can increase their market share by driving customers back into stores. Contact Retail@SHI.com to learn more about how your organization can get started.