There’s no doubt: the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has drastically shifted consumer habits and upended the retail industry. Whether it was the forced and sporadic closures of non-essential businesses throughout 2020 and 2021 or the unfolding supply chain crisis, retail shoppers have had to make adjustments. While the pandemic has certainly shifted consumer demand towards certain goods and services and away from others, the biggest change has not been in what consumers buy but in how they’re choosing to spend their money in the first place.
When businesses shuttered their storefronts to ensure the health and safety of their customers and staff, consumers had no choice but to go online to get their retail fix. And, waiting for all of those new virtual customers with open arms was Amazon.com Inc. Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon’s profits have soared more than 200%. Their share of the total retail market jumped from less than 7% to nearly 10% within a year—putting them within a hair’s breadth of the reigning behemoth, Walmart Inc. And their dominance in e-commerce is apparent with a projected 50% market share by year’s end.
Now that consumers have grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of online shopping and forged new and lasting habits, Amazon’s hegemony over the retail industry only seems poised to continue. Even as we can start to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, Amazon’s retail reign looks like it will last. Going forward, if brick-and-mortar retailers have any hope of dethroning Amazon, they’ll have to find more and better ways to attract consumers away from their phones and laptops and into their stores.
While that might seem like a daunting task—not even parents seem to be able to pull their kids away from all of the screens today—the solution is simpler than most might think. And most retailers are already doing it.
The Brick-and-Mortar Retail Advantage
When it comes to the business of retail, the process of standing out from the pack can be summed up in one word: experience. Not experience in the sense of the knowledge and skills accrued towards a given task over time, but experience in the sense of a lived journey—an exciting and engaging adventure. Everything from head-turning window displays to seamless payment options and branded shopping bags, are intended to set each retailer apart from the others and offer customers an experience that they’ll enjoy—and want to enjoy again and again.
Online retailers such as Amazon focus almost exclusively on maximizing a single aspect of the retail experience; convenience. While it might be convenient to browse options and brands from the comfort of one’s couch and check out with a single click, it isn’t exactly a memorable experience. Nor are image grids with blurry photos or text blocks of item descriptions particularly appealing. And anyone who has had to contend with returns can attest to the fact that it isn’t convenient to re-package items, print out return labels, and wait in line at the nearest postal office. Similarly, online retailers might process refunds quickly but clicking through a response matrix or chatting with the customer service “bot” feels impersonal, to say the least.
This is where brick-and-mortar retailers can craft better and more immersive experiences for their customers—and hold their ground against the online onslaught.
Constantly Reinvigorate Displays
As stated before, there isn’t anything particularly appealing about the image grids that comprise most online retail spaces. Sure, some of the images are nice to look at and every so often, a website redesign or a simple switch to seasonal colours makes the site feel new again. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a grid with some pictures.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have a three-dimensional space that they can use to fully immerse customers in an experience—no geeky glasses required. Window displays are an obvious place to start but don’t stop there. Take STORY, for example—a New York City retailer that completely reinvents its 2,000sqft space every four to eight weeks. Building off of a different but culturally-current theme each time, STORY is able to keep their existing customers engaged while constantly attracting new ones. Finding out this month’s theme has become a form of marketing all its own.
While you might not want to revamp your retail space to the extent that STORY does, keeping things fresh is a good way to keep customers engaged and pull their attention away from their screens.
Take Advantage of the Shift to Online Shopping
Having brick-and-mortar locations doesn’t exclude businesses from capitalizing on consumers’ shift to online shopping—in fact, it enhances their ability to do so. Throughout the pandemic, businesses have adopted new technologies and operational channels to continue serving their customers and community. Perhaps the most widely adopted tactic—by businesses and customers alike—was “curbside pick-up”. Buy your items online and come and grab them at the store.
Brick-and-mortar retailers looking to stay competitive in the face of the rise in online shopping can do so by combining their existing strengths with the strengths of online shopping. Customers still get to interact with highly trained and knowledgeable flesh-and-bone staff and may be enticed indoors by an engaging display.
Crafting a distinctive and superior retail experience will become increasingly important as the Age of Amazon and online shopping continues and these are just some of the ways that you can remain competitive. To fully understand how The Reset Team can help you develop an engaging retail experience for your customers, [contact us today].