While life on the retail landscape has always been challenging and competitive, the emergence of the web has raised the stakes and changed the game. Indeed, rather than being the default option, retailers in all sectors are finding themselves taking a back seat to online competitors — and struggling to survive.
As such, retailers need to make a critical, destiny-defining decision: they can either keep doing what they’ve always done and invariably go out of business, or do they can make strategic investments and adjustments, and give themselves a fighting chance to thrive.
For retailers who wisely and courageously choose the latter path, here are three essential things they need to offer customers right now — not months or years in the future, when it may be too late to stop the bleeding and salvage the operation.
1. Loyalty Programs
Retailers need to offer at least one — but possibly multiple — loyalty programs that incentivize customers to head into their stores vs. surf the web and head to a competitor. For example, retailers can offer exclusive discounts, points (which can be redeemed for products or discounts), and so on.
2. Mobile Point-of-Sale
Customers hate standing in line waiting to pay for their items. In fact, some customers won’t even stand in line and will leave their cart or basket and walk out the door — possibly never returning. Retailers can make long, tedious line-ups a thing of the past by using mobile point-of-sale (PoS). For example, progressive drug stores are using a pharmacy POS system to do everything from increase average customer value (customers who don’t have to wait in line are likely to buy more), to provide curbside delivery of medications and other items. Everyone wins, customers and retailers alike!
3. Mobile Apps
In the past, developing a mobile app was time-consuming and very costly — which is why only the largest retailers could offer them. However, these days creating an app is relatively fast and affordable. What’s more, it’s a smart and strategic way to stay connected with customers and share promotions (e.g., sales, flash offers, etc.) that drive in-store traffic.
The Bottom Line
Rumors of the retail world’s demise at the hands of the e-commerce giant have been greatly exaggerated. Retailers can indeed compete, and many of them are realizing that they can provide a positive customer experience that gives them a lasting, profitable, competitive advantage. The three strategies described above are must-haves for retailers who want to ensure that the future is friendly vs. frightening.