The retail sector is experiencing enormous change which makes the future unsure. Many are wondering how to keep their competitiveness and customers as digitalisation progresses. The new purchasing behaviour phenomena, such as showrooming, are mixing things up: The flow of customers at the bricks and mortar shop is no longer a guarantee of sales, as consumers are only testing the products at the shops to then take their credit cards to the retailer that offers the cheapest price. How can online stores and bricks and mortar shops be combined in an ecosystem where they feed each other?
Success at the bricks and mortar shops demands smart solutions that combine technology and human resources. Self-service checkouts, electronic shelf labels and digital screens are already the norm for consumers. In the future, customers will more often be served by interactive information booths and customer service robots. As retail digitalises, the value of knowledgeable salespeople and personal service will rise to an entirely new level. By using the strengths of the two, you are well on your way towards a successful sale.
I have more than 15 years of experience from shops and POS systems and, during this time, I have seen the evolution from traditional bricks and mortar shops to omnichannel, 24/7 trading places. The key factor of success is to focus your attention on increasing customer understanding, being omnichannel, designing the customer experience as well as supporting the sales personnel’s professionalism.
How to gain the customer trust that results in a purchase decision:
1. Recognise the customer: Traditional loyal customer programmes have been a method of identifying customers at the bricks and mortar shops for a long time. Loyal customer data enables you to create a good overall picture of the customer’s needs and purchase behaviour as well as to target marketing. In the future, you must know how to analyse, utilise and combine it with the data from other systems — with the customer’s permission, of course.
2. Omnichannel service: The bricks and mortar shop systems and the online store customer data should be combined. This deepens the salesperson’s customer understanding and improves the service. Being omnichannel serves the customer: The buying process continues seamlessly—even if it started online or vice versa.
3. Service is a promise that must be kept: From the customer’s point of view, going to a bricks and mortar shop requires time and effort. Respect this! No one wants to see you shrug your shoulders or be bounced around from one salesperson to another. Designing the service process, having a functional system and doing everything possible to make the customer experience smoother is worth it. A positive service experience and especially succeeded expectations will without a doubt lead to additional visits.
4. Dazzle with your expertise: Especially when making more demanding purchases—such as more expensive home electronics, a car or even a house package—the salesperson’s expertise, or the lack thereof, settle the matter. It’s worth it to aid the shop personnel with smart systems that support the salespersons’ professionalism by offering them quick access to customer data and that offer a sufficient amount of information on the products they are selling. A good salesperson together with a smart data system create a customer service experience that no technology can replace on its own.