7 Ways to Future-Proof your Apparel Retail Store

If you are a  traditional retail store owner in 2019, chances are you are consumed with this thought of the future of your business far more than you would like. First there is this never ending hysteria around things like ecommerce and extremely vague terms like “digital”,  and that how the future is all about these things. But then you also hear news of massive ecommerce companies like Amazon and Alibaba, trying to open retail stores across the world complimenting their online stores. With this lack of clarity and definition, it can become extremely confusing for a retail store to plan and secure the future. Well the good news is we have compiled the top 7 factors to consider to plan for the future.  So read on.Let me address the elephant in the room- Physical Retail stores are alive and there are no indications of the so called death of the retail stores. That is however if your store has the character to survive. This caveat is critical and this is what is often most ignored-  Stores should have the character to survive in this new age and this character depends on the willingness to foresee and adjust to the changing consumer shopping habits, changing retail eco system, future trends etc.

Now that we have established that adaptation is the key, this is where it gets trickier and where most businesses mess up. What do you adopt and what do you discard? Every person you meet assumes the role of an expert and keeps suggesting something extremely vague or something that you probably never heard about. Well to make it easy for you, we have compiled a list of things apparel retail store owners must keep in mind to be ahead of the times and “Future Proof” your business.

Here are the top 7:

1) Recognising that retail is`nt what it used to be:

As the saying goes- Change is the only thing Constant. One character trait that every retail store must have is to be open to change. For the last many decades, apparel retail stores have banked on 3 main factors for their sales-

  • Choosing a store location that sees heavy pedestrian traffic.
  • Great looking interiors and appealing Display Mannequins to lure the passer bys in
  • Luck

Although the manner in which retail stores approach still remains similar, consumer shopping habits have dramatically changed in the last few years. One of the biggest changes in consumer habits is the use of Mobile. According to a study by Nielsen and Google`s Mobile path to purchase study, people spend more than 15 hours a week in researching or browsing things to buy on their mobiles. The report also found that 93% of those have resulted in a purchase and 82% of those purchases happened in offline physical retail stores.

What this means is that clearly, mobile is playing a very important role in people`s path to purchase. While retail purchase likelihood is strong, window shopping is increasingly happening over the screens of the mobile phone. Whether it is sitting in a bus stop or on a boring day at work, the mobile screen is increasingly grabbing attention and influencing consumer behaviour and buying habits.

It is not Physical or Digital. It is Physical with Digital

-A.T. Kearney’s Omnichannel Shopping Preferences Study

2) Understanding what the Future Holds

Now that we understand that retail is not what it used to be, we must now look at where is retail heading towards?

There used to be a time when the retail stores controlled how the system of shopping worked. Consumers had to go to the store when they wanted something. But with changing times, not only have the number of retailers per capita increased but it is becoming more and more apparent that it is now the consumers who are in control of what sells and how it sells. Hence the contest now is who can get to the customer the fastest and in a way that is most comfortable for the consumer. Convenience is the key!

Like discussed before, consumers are increasingly using technology to make their shopping experience more efficient. Also the general habits of an average consumer are changing. Letters have been replaced by messaging apps, waiting for a cab has been replaced by ordering a cab, meeting friends has been replaced by group chats. In such a smart phone dominant era, expecting the same consumer who is used to getting everything else with a click of a button to physically step out and go through the exercise of scouting a store to make a purchase may be a little ambitious.

In short, you should be there for your customers no matter where they are or what device they’re using, and you should provide an excellent experience as your shoppers switch from one channel to the next i.e Be Omnipresent  Become an Omnichannel.

3) Running an Omnichannel Store

What is an Omnichannel store? As the name suggests, omni channel relates to establishing multiple channels (ways) of taking your business to the potential customer. For the longest time, retail stores relied on just singular approach of customer reach and that was the physical location of the retail store itself.

But, it is getting more and more uncommon for the modern consumer to rely on just a singular channel to make a purchase. Consumers today research products online, compare prices on their phone, try to discover new stores online, try to test the merchandise in person and then eventually make a purchase in one of the channels. Hence, if the store does not pay attention or lags in these other channels, it is almost certain that the store is invisible to the consumers.

But, what other channels of business exist for the average retail store? This is also a question that deserves some pondering. There are personal websites, social media, ecommerce sites, directory listing sites, m-commerce using chat apps etc etc that exist as a technology worth exploring. But in an apparel retail store`s perspective, the effectiveness of most of these online channels seems to be in question. According to a research by Brand Equity, 95% of shoppers do not prefer to make an apparel purchase Online. Consumers prefer the touch and feel aspect of apparel shopping, also referred to as “Try it before you Buy it” factor. But at the same time, online shopping in apparel amounts to close to 35% of total apparel sales. The only reason 30% of consumers have been purchasing online is because of the convenience offered by the online stores. And this is what retail stores have been missing out on and hence losing sales. Providing convenience of Time, energy, cost and delivery.

4) Taking the Guesswork out of retail

Retail store business, like most businesses relies heavily on more guesswork than it should. Unless one is a maverick store owner, almost everything from sales projections to customer preferences like fashion tastes are all mostly part of educated guesswork at best. While most would like to take this guesswork out of the retail store market, it is only possible to do so if retail stores adopt to newer technological innovations.

Data is the name of the game.

Retail stores interact with thousands of consumers on a regular basis. But apart from the actual sales numbers and the money in the bank, there is hardly any credible data on the potential consumers that the stores seem to care about. Analytics like footfall numbers that did not convert to sale, customer feedback on the certain products, sale number by category and product, tweaking store timings based on exact numbers of customer traffic are some of the data points that help store owners be in complete control of their store.

A simple, yet highly effective way to implement in-store analytics, counters are also used by retailers to measure foot traffic. In a case study about Godiva, ShopperTrak, a retail technology company, discussed how people counters helped increase the chocolatier’s transactions and conversion rates. One of the challenges that Godiva faced was inconsistency in its traffic and conversion numbers. Since some of its stores are situated in tourist areas while others are located in financial districts, its traffic flow and conversion rates weren’t the same for all its branches. To address this, the chocolatier analyzed traffic trends for each individual branch. Doing so gave Godiva actionable insights and it implemented staffing and marketing strategies based on the data it found. ShopperTrak’s foot traffic data enabled the retailer to “plan staff rotas to ensure that there is always a healthy associate to customer ratio and to place the best staff on the shop floor at peak traffic times.” The insights also helped the brand measure the impact of its window displays, and it was able to determine which window merchandising strategies brought in more customers. As a result, the number of in-store transactions went up by 10% and conversion rates increased from 24% to 26.5% in six weeks.

But as a comparatively smaller player in the retail space, what kind of data can a store actually collect that can be useful for the store? Well, according to tech expert David Storm, here are some of the important data points that stores need to pay attention to:

  1. Dwell time in the store
  2. Average shop times across a particular time of day or day of the year
  3. Parts of the store that customers visit the most and the least
  4. Where customers live or work in relation to the store
  5. Cross-store data comparisons

5) Using Mobile to drive in-store traffic

Convenience that the mobile provides is next to none. As explained in brief earlier, modern day consumers are using their trusty smartphones to assist and guide them towards making an informed choice in shopping. Hence it becomes imperative that store owners use this avenue to lure in potential buyers and improve on the sales numbers.

For an average business the current avenues of consumer interest are

  1. Directory Listing websites like Google, Just Dial, Yellow pages, Yelp etc
  2. E-commerce direct selling websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra etc
  3. Google Search Results and SEO
  4. Social Media platforms like Facebook, Instagram etc
  5. Websites or web profiles
  6. Be active on the hyperlocal sector specific sites like Mainroad.in

6) Boosting Customer Loyalty

With the rise in the number of physical retail stores, change in the consumer mindset and habits and the rise of technology, one of the most severely hit aspects of retail shopping has been the Customer Loyalty or in more colloquial terms “repeat customers”. But if executed in a right manner, customer loyalty is an extremely powerful tool to drive sales growth. This is because a loyal customer is a free marketeer of the business. For anyone who prefers the numbers on this, a traditional word of mouth can spread to roughly 12 people and same when combined with new age social media reach can reach 70 times more number of people, i.e. close to 850 people.

To boost customer loyalty, the more tried and tested methods are things most of us know or have heard at some point- which are coupons, reward points, referral codes etc. But these generic methods seem to have stagnated to garner customer interest as the new age consumer finds rewards irrelevant and the points useless, unless it is something they need.

Hence it is imminent that stores look at innovation to modify their loyalty programmes to better compliment their loyal customers. Here are some ideas from other businesses:

Retailer Sephora has a great loyalty program called Beauty Insider that not only gives members points for every purchase, but also sends birthday gifts, invites to exclusive shopping events, and complimentary beauty classes. On top of that, members of the program can get tailored recommendations based on their profile.

Office Depot is another retailer that’s doing creative things with its loyalty efforts. It started implementing a program that gives customers rewards based on their frequently bought items, shopping behavior, and the amount information that they shared with the brand.  

The aim is to include customized perks and tailored rewards to your loyalty program. This will not only take care of the irrelevant rewards issue that customers have, but it’ll make them feel genuinely rewarded (and in turn more loyal to your brand).

7) Giving customers an experience they wont forget

There are literally thousands of avenues to shop for the type of products you sell. What is the reason that a consumer must come to you and not the other? This is a question that every store that is serious enough about growth and customer retention and sales must constantly ponder over. Do you have superior product that the customer may not find anywhere else? Do you have superior customer service and relationship management that others dont? Are your prices friendlier than the others? Are you more in tune with the fashion trends of the day and hence the customers can expect the best and latest at all times?

As a store owner, the aim must be to answer in the affirmative to not just one but as many of such questions as possible. And once you start getting better at multitude of customer satisfaction segments, the overall customer experience starts getting better. And once the customer experience starts getting better, it has a chain reaction to improving customer loyalty, better customer footfall and thus better conversion to sales.  

Here are some of the ways to improve the overall customer experience and satisfaction which is different from the standard avenues already available:

1. Organize an in-store event! It could be a class, workshop, or just a simple social gathering that’ll give you and your customers a chance to bond.

2. Have a talk with your staff about educating shoppers. Train them to be problem-solvers or advice-givers rather than just salespeople.

3. Explore ways to utilize mobile technology in your store—you have plenty of options! Whether it’s adopting mobile payments, using beacons, or simply offering free Wi-Fi, having a more mobile centric store can make a difference in the customer experience.

4. Step up your tribetailing efforts. If you haven’t done so yet, study your target customers and identify their tribe. Then, evaluate your store and see to it that every component caters to the tribe you want to reach.

Sources: www.vendhq.com/



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