The demarcation between the brick-and-mortar retail experience and online retail experience is blurring. Consumers have come to expect consistent branding, product, and service offerings and experiences from retail brands, regardless if their shopping occurred offline or online. This is an opportunity for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to deliver differentiated customer experiences and stand out from the competition. And if you’re concerned that this might be a fad rather than a trend, it’s worthwhile to consider the rationale behind the Amazon Go project, and how the largest e-commerce company in the world is now pushing the boundaries of the hybrid, omnichannel shopping experience.
While traditional brick-and-mortar retail can’t exactly mirror the data-driven, digital experiences delivered by online retail players, this does not mean that there is no room for improvement, particularly if you’re a small or medium retailer (SMR). In fact, there are a few best practices that can be learned and adapted from online retailers, and you may already be doing some of them.
1. Build connections with your customers using email. If you have never ventured online in any way or form, connecting with your existing customers through email is easy and gentle. Through email, you craft personalized messages and send them in your own time, without the time commitments typically required on social platforms to be effective. If you’re already engaging your customers on social platforms, try engaging them with email to boost upselling and reselling efforts; the personalized touch and feel of a well crafted email is difficult to replace.
2. Once you have connections, segment them into logical groups. The ultimate purpose of data-driven retail is to help streamline customer acquisition costs by proposing products and services that are more targeted to customer needs, which inherently improves your sales in return. Having a list of email addresses is good, but you’ll need to segment them by demographics and purchasing history, for a start. Craft your emails based on your segments. For example, if you observe a group of your customers frequently purchasing cupcakes from your store every week, promote premium cupcakes for special occasions via an email specifically targeted at them.
3. Build a loyalty program on top of your email marketing. Many traditional retailers have invested in loyalty programs, but if you don’t, loyalty programs are great and fun ways to enhance your store’s customer experience for your returning customers. Adopt a simple point system for a start, and be creative in offering loyalty benefits using social media platforms to create some spillover opportunities for viral marketing.
4. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, consider starting a subscription business model. The subscription business model is booming—Harvard Business Review. Traditionally belonging to the sole domain of publishing businesses, the subscription business model has now evolved to include products ranging from razors, clothes, and children’s toys, as last mile shipping and on-demand delivery services continue to mature and scale. Subscription business models are great for acquiring new and younger customer groups, but what makes them exciting stretches beyond the generational gap; the core values that drive customer experiences behind subscription business models are peace of mind and convenience, both of which are universal values and applicable to consumers of all ages.
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