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The secret to survival of brick-and-mortar retail lies in ‘Touching Customers Hearts’

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Every retailer gets one question in their mind that ‘Is it the end of the road for brick and mortar retail business’?

As we can see, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have no chance of surviving the onslaught from the e-commerce industry . The only way through which brick and mortar businesses can be survived if they invest and focus more on customer experience. 

Traditional retailers must compete with e-commerce providers by gathering insights and learning about their customers and their behaviour. 

Some of the insights are given below – 

Focus on building long-term relationships through excellent customer service. What I find completely lacking in our country is complete absence of customer service in its true sense.  Too much English, very little substance. Here’s a personal incident that I recently experienced. I went to a multinational retail chain store in a mall close to my residence after a very long time. COVID had driven me completely to e-commerce hence shopping in a physical store after over a year or more I was quite excited.  Unfortunately, they did not have my size in the store, and I requested the sales staff to check another store for my size, which they did after much persistence. Luckily, this other store 15 kms away did have my size but the only way I could get it was by getting to the physical location of the store and buying it. While I was trying real hard to make that purchase the staff was only trying to make it difficult. 

Retailers should have methods such as email interactions, surveys, and a social media presence in place to keep track of customer interactions, following up to ensure customers are satisfied. In-store, retailers will want to make sure their staff is trained and knowledgeable of products to be sure customers’ needs are met. 

Add value to the in-store experience- The retailers need to excel where most online shops fail by offering free ship-to-home or same-day delivery to shoppers whose desired item is out-of-stock. Provide special deals on purchases that reach a certain threshold, as many ecommerce brands do. Offer VIP customers exclusive holiday shopping or invitations to unique in-store events. Allow “click n collect” service for shoppers who want to stop by quickly on their way home from work to pick up items ordered online; once they’re in the store, they’ll likely walk out with more. Allow online price-matching, so consumers know they’re getting the best deal possible.

Providing personal treatment by utilising Retail loyalty or marketing software can help you gather data on your customers’ shopping habits. You can then use this information to suggest additional purchases, alert customers to new merchandise they might like or upsell and cross-sell. Make sure your store employees can easily access this information. More important than the technology, it is to train your employees to provide top-notch service (no looking at their phones when customers are in the store). You can even encourage employees to send shoppers personalized emails or interact with them by text to develop one-on-one relationships. 

Back to the Basics is what is required to establish that ultimate connection.- How many of us remember doing grocery shopping at the local kirana store as a kid. The parents would give you a list of daily groceries or house goods to take to your neighbourhood kirana/parchun store and hand it over to the uncle sitting on the cash register. He would inquire how everyone was at home and mind you he knew everyone by their names.  And while he is chit chatting his assistant is filling in the order and bringing it to the cash register. Now the uncle would open up his old notebook and get to the page with our family name and address. He would record each item neatly along with the date of purchase. In case he was out of one product he would tell you that it would be delivered to your house in some time. The bills were cleared monthly when most people would get their salaries. What he was doing was practising CRM in its true sense.  Knowing a customer one on one, understanding the customers’ requirements, providing credit and personalised services, would all lead to customers returning to the same store over and over again. The vegetable vendor after your normal order would throw in some coriander and green pepper as a reward for your loyalty. 

To conclude, the easiest way for the retailers to beat E- commerce is by striving to touch your customer’s hearts. 


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