2020 was a year of mass disruption, which sprung upon retailers with little warning to react. The pandemic not only reshaped the industry but also accelerated trends. The dramatic shift to ecommerce is an obvious but important one, driving new, sustained behaviours that will force the evolution of the bricks-and-mortar store. This means retailers must rethink their footprint, their offering, and the role of physical stores in a more omni-centric manner in order to optimize performance and refocus experiences to better align with the changing expectations of customers.
Physical stores continue to play a very important yet different role in this new shopper ecosystem.
As we gradually emerge from the pandemic year we left behind, retailers must focus on 2021 with renewed optimism at a future plan. The acceleration of the digital mandate and building out one’s technology infrastructure to support a more effective go-to-market strategy is inevitable. Consumers are increasingly expecting an easy to navigate and frictionless shopping experience across physical retail, ecommerce, and social channels. Technology and data intelligence are being used to enable seamless O-to-O (online to offline) experiences. Within this new shopping ecosystem, the role of the physical store needs to be reconceived with an understanding of the type of shopper visiting, their needs, propensities to buy and at which stage in their path to purchase they are to better understand expectations. Regardless, the importance of more tactical exercises such as ensuring the proper integration of all touchpoints – curbside service, BOPIS, in-store ecommerce, home delivery – to provide an easy and seamless shopping experience should not be overlooked.
Resetting in-store experience.
Brick-and-mortar stores have the opportunity to provide enhanced value and experiences that strengthen the customer relationship and build loyalty. The growing trend around “retail-tainment” is an example of how retailers can bring their brand to life in a way that ecommerce platforms cannot through more immersive and interactive experiences. Another way is amplifying service through knowledgeable staff that can offer a more consultative and personalized approach to sales that meet the higher expectations of shoppers. In addition to store staff, attention to the role and content of in-store communications and the deployment of in-store digital that is purposeful and deliberate in providing easy access to product information and solutions are other important ways to improve the shopping experiences in stores.
Retailers will need to strategically reset categories to build strength as a destination.
The impact of ecommerce activity needs to be studied and reflected through category resets and store planning exercises that more accurately align to the changed customer. Adjacency strategies that aid the shopping journey and reflect a more solutions-oriented mindset will also enhance the shopping experience. This will create better opportunities for conversion as well as increasing basket size and overall transaction value. By looking more deeply into how customer needs have changed and what they value, new opportunities can be uncovered that retailers can take advantage of through new product lines, innovation in private brand offerings, and an enhanced suite of value-add services available in store or offered through third-party partnerships. This will build relevancy and trust in the hearts and minds of shoppers by showing them the retailer has made the effort to understand them and respond to their needs.
As the focus on 2021 will be an opportunity to turn the page, clean the slate and reset go-to-market strategies, retailers will need to build a deeper understanding of how a customer’s value system is changing, and respond by looking at their retail offering as an ecosystem of connected experiences rather than a system of singular products and stores. Looking at things differently will help retailers captivate customers at every single point along the ever-evolving path to purchase. Within this context, physical stores can be reset appropriately to strengthen competitiveness, reinforce customer relationships and help drive future, sustained growth.