Many people believe brick and mortar stores and retailers no longer have the ability to compete with e-commerce sites; they have been saying so for several years now. In truth, however, retail stores and offline businesses are here to stay. There are certain things that online stores cannot provide in a seamless way, which is why offline stores will remain necessary for certain types of businesses.
Still, it is worth noting that offline businesses also need to compete with online rivals in today’s modern age. If you have a business that sells tangible products, the way you make your store more competitive is by fine-tuning the in-store experience for customers and really delivering something special in this department. The top eight tips we are about to discuss in this article will help you get started with improving your own in-store experience right away.
Better point of sale area
The point of sale area is one of the most important areas in the store. Similar to how online stores improve their checkout process for smoother, faster checkouts, you need to take steps towards improving the point of sale area for better customer experience.
The till area, for instance, needs to be designed in a way that allows customers to make purchases in an orderly fashion. With a clear queue and multiple cashiers operating the tills, you can instantly boost the shopping experience.
You can find retractable barriers from websites such as discountdisplays.co.uk who stock a range of lengths, colours and styles so that you’re guaranteed to find one which looks the part in your store. When there are a lot of customers waiting in line, the queue can be adjusted to maximise space. When things are quiet, on the other hand, the queue barriers can be removed.
Sufficient product knowledge
Next, you want the people working in the store to know exactly how to handle customers. This means training them and equipping them with sufficient product knowledge and other information. Whenever a customer needs help, clerks need to be able to provide that help quickly and correctly.
Another thing to improve about store clerks is the way they engage with the customers. You want clerks to be ready when customers need help. What you don’t want are store clerks that follow customers around all the time.
The latter tend to make customers feel uncomfortable. There are those who visit your store before deciding to buy anything. Letting this type of customer roam around and browse through your products could actually boost sales from impulse purchases.
Every detail about your offline store will influence the customers. The fragrance you choose to add to the space, the way the lighting is set up, and even the colours of your walls all influence the shopping experience of customers more than you realise.
The challenge here is finding the right small tweaks to implement based on the kind of customers you are targeting. This means doing more research on both existing and target customer groups, figuring out what they really like, and delivering an in-store experience that suits them perfectly.
While doing research, you also want to invest in understanding your brand – how it is perceived, to be exact – better. The insights you get in return will also help you personalise your store. Have you ever noticed how all Starbucks stores smell alike?
Evaluate the flow
For smaller retail spaces and offline stores, flow isn’t too big of an issue to handle. The limited space actually helps make designing the layout of your store easier. Larger stores, on the other hand, are more difficult to handle.
Rather than designing for efficiency, which is what a lot of businesses are doing right now, you want to optimise the layout for better customer flow. In a retail store, for instance, you want to think about what the customers usually look for first, what they need next, and so on.
The same principle can be applied to other types of businesses. If you run a coffee shop, the first thing that greets the customers when they enter should be the point of sale area where they can order immediately.
Engage the senses
We have talked about how you can personalise virtually everything about an offline store, including the way the store smells and the overall ambiance of the space itself. As you fine-tune the retail space further, you want to focus more on engaging the customers’ senses.
I’m not talking about the eyes and the nose only; I’m talking about all five senses. Customers will mainly focus on the visuals of the store, how products are displayed, and how the space looks in general, but the other senses are working actively too.
Altering how the store smells, how things feel when customers touch them, and adding the right background music (Muzak) can alter how customers experience the store. Using the previous example, Starbucks is able to deliver the same experience around the world by engaging all five senses in a similar way.
Nothing is more effective in convincing customers to make purchases than some hands-on time. Allowing customers to try the products they are interested in is a must for certain products. In other instances, give away samples to let customers try before they buy.
Here’s another top tip to use: try to engage kids as much as you do the adult customers. Kids are easier to engage, and they show more enthusiasm when they are engaged. Letting kids have some fun also helps, even when the fun isn’t directly related to the products you offer.
Engaging kids is handy for keeping them occupied while their parents browse in your store. Make sure you station a few clerks to keep the kids safe, and you are all set. Their parents will appreciate the extra care; they are more likely to shop with you when their children are happy.
Many offline businesses also set up their own online storefronts to connect better with customers. This isn’t a bad approach to take, especially when the products you sell can also be sold online. To separate yourself from the competitors, integrate the two storefronts better.
Rather than treating online and offline stores as separate entities, try to combine the two into one unified shopping experience. Make sure customers are equally familiar with both storefronts. This can be achieved by adding the same – or similar – elements to offline and online stores, such as using the same colour scheme for both.
You can also run offline promotions and online promotions simultaneously. For example, you can give customers added discounts when they take pictures in your offline store and share those pictures on Instagram. Use digital marketing to promote the special offer and watch your walk-in traffic grow.
Join the retailtainment wagon
Retailtainment is becoming more prominent in the retail industry. What the concept does is combine retail and entertainment, particularly for the purpose of making shopping more fun. We see this with many brands already, including beauty shops and brands that now have in-store makeover booths for customers.
The way you implement retailtainment depends on your store and the products you offer. Figure out what your customers truly love and enjoy and find ways to integrate those elements into the shopping experience you deliver.
Now that you have these eight tips in your arsenal, making your offline store even more competitive is easy. Go the extra mile, keep customers happy, and you will not have to worry about competing with online and offline stores alike.