Socrates said it best, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Change is inevitable, and we all know that without change, there is no growth or opportunity to succeed.

One thing that has certainly endured a wealth of changes over the last 100 years, is the physical retail industry. From national big box chains to specialty boutiques, and everything in between, brick-and-mortars have continued to evolve to keep up with the changing consumer landscape. And, while e-commerce may have taken some of the retail spotlight in the early 2000’s, retailers have continued to fight back and go to great lengths to keep attracting shoppers with new and innovative ways to target, engage and drive in-store sales. Why? Well, the statistics don’t lie:

Bottom line – physical stores still matter big time.

But, the question becomes, where should brands and retailers focus their time, energy and money to ensure that they are making all the right moves when it comes to driving shoppers into the store? Here are our thoughts on four key areas that will have the most impact on a drive-to-store marketing strategy.

 1. Court Those Millennials

According to a study conducted by eMarketer, 82% of Millennials believe it’s important for a brand to have physical stores, compared to only 69% of Gen-X and 65% of Baby Boomers. What’s more, is they have an estimated $200 billion in purchasing power. If that’s not a clear enough sign that your new favorite customer should be a millennial, then we don’t know what is. Millennials, who many assume prefer online shopping, actually value being able to touch, feel and interact with a product and more so, be part of an experience. They want to be able to touch brands at each point of their shopping journey from initial discovery on their mobile phone to in-store interaction. Millennial consumers continue to be the driving force in the shopping industry because they are savvy, always connected and innovative. Some of the most successful brand and retailer comebacks we have seen over the last year or two, were the ones who followed the millennials, and listened to the millennials.

2. Mobile is the Starting Line

All paths to purchase today start with a smartphone. Now, while that may be a pretty bold statement, mobile has in fact proven that it is a force to be reckoned with. Google even reports that 82% of shoppers consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store. From being one of the first touch points consumers go to when they wake up and one of the last things they engage with before they go to bed, mobile has really integrated itself into the “way of life.” But, smart retailers and brands alike know that each smartphone user’s shopping journey may involve different paths and timing. But, one thing that is certain is that customers want the perfect combination of digital and physical. And, can we blame them? From in-store snapchats of purchases, to skipping the line with mobile pay, to the convenience of click and collect or texting a sales associate, and even being able to earn double reward bucks in a retailer app for shopping in-store on your Friday lunch break, mobile has allowed shoppers to get more, do more, interact more, and spend more.

3. Data Drives Intelligent Connections

We believe that behind every successful campaign is intelligent data, and while data has been available to marketers for some time now, being able to analyze and integrate data into marketing initiatives has drastically improved. Companies with above-average performance using customer data and analytics outpace competitors by 2-3x on sales, margins and profits suggests Harvard Business Review. Technology, like beacons, but especially mobile phones, has allowed data platforms to collect millions of contextualized data points and insights into who shoppers are, what they are purchasing, when they are buying and where they are located in relation to physical stores or events. This type of information has afforded marketers with the ability to hyper-segment their ideal consumers and target them at the right time, in the right place and with a more relevant, personalized message. In addition to audience insights, retailers and brands who have released SKU’s to certain data companies, such as ShopAdvisor, have allowed for smarter, more cost-effective ways for brands to drive consumers to store locations that only have their promoted products in-stock. The brands and retailers who are increasing sales, may in fact be focusing more on where their products are in relation to their consumer, rather than counting how many ad impressions they made.

4. Get Creative

The physical act of shopping in a retail store is definitely not what is was like 20, or even 5 years ago. People crave fun and spontaneity, and they want an experience that they will be able to share with their friends and more importantly, share over social media. In fact, one study showed that over 50% of shoppers would pay a higher price for the customer experiences they value most, and 77% of those shoppers would be more loyal to stores that provided personal customer experiences. Retailers and brands must get creative or put money towards creative masterminds to reinvent their physical space and bring exciting elements to their storefronts and down their aisles. Some particular retailers who have brought the “social” back to shopping and have proven to be successful by selling their “experience” as much as their product, are the following:

  • Neiman Marcus, developed interactive Memory Mirrors that enables shoppers to virtually try on items, compare side-by-side, and then share for opinions on social media
  • Nike installed a basketball court in the middle of their store that allows customers to shoot hoops and analyze which shoe gets them the best jump shot. Oh, and treadmills, just in case you want to get a quick jog in
  • Lululemon channels their customer’s inner zen with complimentary in-store yoga classes and other sweat sessions each week, and
  • Jordan’s Furniture, a New England chain, achieves some of the highest furniture sales productivity in the country by integrating a whole range of experiences from food courts, to trapeze lessons, and an ice skating rink.

So, what did we learn? Well, for starters, retail is not dead. Now is the time for retailers and brands to put their thinking caps on and harness the technology and resources that are available to them to drive consumers back into stores and create a shopping experience that will have them coming back for more. Second, digital and physical must coincide with one another. Consumers are living on their smartphones, tablets and desktops, so making the path to purchase a seamless, transparent and personalized experience for them is key.  Three, listen to your customers, especially those millennials. They’re imaginative, tech-savvy and can be your strongest marketing tool. Lastly, be a disruptor – do the things others won’t do. Listen to Socrates and focus all of your energy on building the new. The future of retail is in your hands. Your customers are counting on you.

If you would like to learn more about some of the data solutions ShopAdvisor can provide to help power successful drive-to-store proximity marketing campaigns, click here to contact us.

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