In such a fast moving world it can seem like physical retail stores have no chance against the online retail world.  There are any number of conveniences people tout as why they like online shopping – large selections of items, lower prices, the perceived savings of gas and time,  having the item just show up at the door.

It can start to seem like there is no way for brick and mortar stores to compete with eCommerce these days!

But it’s the holiday season and there’s no time to fret! It’s important to remember that brick and mortar stores also have their own set of advantages that eCommerce stores will never have. The human element. Sure, everybody is on the go these days, burning the candle at both ends and looking for the most convenient way to do everything, but you can’t underestimate how shopping makes us feel. There’s a reason for sayings like retail therapy. Pleasure, the sense of touch and smell, instant gratification all combine together to create an experience that can’t be recreated with a few online clicks. Recent studies have shown that 73% of shoppers still prefer to touch and feel or try a product before they make a purchase. And on top of that, 60% prefer the instant gratification of having that item in their hot little hands immediately.

The majority of the shopping experience is still about the experience. This isn’t just a chore that needs to be checked off the list, toilet paper..check. Shopping for gifts and making people happy is still what puts the JOY in Christmas.

So, since we know that people still really love shopping and want those “feel good fuzzies” from finding just the perfect thing, how are you going to temp them into your particular establishment?

First of all the most important thing you can do to make customers want to come in to your store instead of just grabbing something online is to  make being in your store irresistible. Pay attention to curb appeal. Think about the kinds of things you can do to make your store look interesting before people even decide to walk in. What will make your customers step off the sidewalk and in through your door? Are the windows decorated intriguingly? Is there a nice scent possibly?

The store should be clean and neat but it should also draw customers in and be a pleasure to wander through discovering. Because the discovery is at times the funnest part it is a good idea to involve as many of the 5 senses that you can.

Aside from the actual products you offer think about the customers experience from beginning to end. What is the perception and experience they are likely to have from the moment they walk through the door to the ease of purchase and how they feel as they step out the door.

Personal engagement is one way brick and mortar can compete with eCommerce.

Make sure you and your staff are making customers feel comfortable and welcomed. Make sure your employees know how to connect with customers in a more personal manner. The point is to make the engagement more intentional which will ultimately lead to purposeful results.

Knowledgeable staff is an understatement…World class customer service is a must. Make sure you staff training involves the topic of reading your customer. Some want to interact endlessly and some want to wander in quiet contemplation. It’s important for your staff to realize they too are a part of the customer experience…and act accordingly. Staff should also be knowledgeable to a fault. If you are out of something will they be able to tell the customer when it will be back in stock, or even better have a way of letting the customer know exactly when the item arrives? Maybe offer shipping the item to the customer when it arrives if they purchase now. Think about ways you can deliver the expected and then go above and beyond?  

Maximize the efforts of your local neighbors. It never hurts to become more involved in local groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and local networking groups but don’t forget the power of partnering with your fellow neighboring businesses. What can you do to help each other bring more foot traffic to all of the businesses in your area? Events that involve multiple businesses give shoppers a reason to come to your establishment on a specific day and feed their “one stop shop” desires. There is also a great opportunity to cross advertise. Through an ad or a social media post you can entice your customers to pop on over and get a handmade gelato at your neighbor when they are done shopping with you and ask that business to do the same. Put together (cheap or free) Instagram posts where your employees love their lunchtime treat from the shop next door and ask them to do the same. It gives consumers a sense of camaraderie while also helping each business to maximize the others loyal following.

Local signage, targeted mail or postcard campaigns can be more than just advertising dollars. How about using them to give customers an excuse to come back on alternate day? A store event or collaboration with the neighbors is a perfect opportunity. A customer may not have been planning on coming back a second time or even on that particular day but now that they see you have this cute little event or promotion happening from 5-7 on Thurs they’ll make sure it’s on their calendar, and bring a friend or two!

Maximize the digital space to make the most of your physical space.

Make sure you have a website that not only features the highlights of your business but is also user friendly and intriguing enough to make customers want to come in and see the real thing. In addition to your address and phone number, make sure your website utilizes location tools. This allows your customers to easily locate your establishment using the maps and google tools on their phones.

Don’t forget word of mouth is still one of the most powerful advertising sources. Leverage social networks such as Instagram and Facebook to reach out to locals who want to keep informed as to what fun is going on in store and stay informed of sales and events.

Review sites such as yelp do wonders to help a business reach its targeted clientele. This is truly a digital form of word of mouth. While you cannot have negative reviews removed from the platform it is always good to reach out to the review to answer questions or attempt to remedy their issue. Other readers will see that you have made an effort and that always bodes well for the business.

What about a implementing a loyalty program? Everyone loves a deal and a loyalty program is not only a way to incentivize your customers to spend with you but also a way to create a connection between you and them. Because loyalty programs can be individualized it will give you a way to answer each customer’s individual wants.  Because of this loyalty offers and rewards can be configured to speak to their particular buying habits.

Gift cards. If you have never thought of offering your own branded gift cards it is time to change your thinking. Having your own store branded gift cards have too many benefits to list here. Especially since I have already dedicated a whole article to this particular topic. In short, your own branded gift cards give your customers a way to share the things they love with their loved ones. And a gift card from a particular store is much more thoughtful than a generic Visa or Amazon gift card that just says “hey I didn’t know what to get you”.

How can brick and mortar stores attract more customers?

Make it easy for people to buy from you! The last thing you want after getting this coveted customer in the door is to have them walk out empty handed because the purchase process seems too complicated. I know this seems like a silly thing to say. What is so complicated about checking out? You’d be surprised how many stores make standing in line and going through a purchase taxing to one’s patience. First make sure you accept all forms of payments your customers may prefer- including touchless and mobile payments. You entire POS system should provide a streamlined checkout process that every employee is proficient with in order to provide a buying experience that is quick and efficient. One thing that annoys customers-too many questions! First they need your zip code, then they want your phone number, do you want to join their loyalty program? (Of course they do!) Enter your email address on this totally inconvenient pin pad while holding up the whole line and that lady behind you is huffing and puffing. No way! This speaks a bit to your particular POS system and how difficult the entry process is. Sometimes it is not feasible to update your system, but there are often small changes you can make or have updated by your POS team that can streamline they loyalty features so don’t hesitate to call on them.

If you can’t change your system how will you get people in the loyalty program then? You may want to give them a membership application to take with them. Explain that they can fill it out at their leisure, sign up online or, better yet, why don’t they return it to you when they make their next trip in!  Promise them that you will have them in the system while they shop, and have it all done before their even ready to checkout- no holding up the line! Now that’s customer service!

Also in the spirit of making it easy to buy from you, consider allowing customers to reserve items online for pick up in store. Even if you are not ready to launch a full on eCommerce store, some customers will love the ease of having the item they need right at the front of the store, packaged nicely and  ready for them to pop in and grab.

Leave a lasting impression with your customers as they leave. Is there something special you can do to their package or add to it? Offer gift wrapping, or make your everyday package so beautiful they want to give it as a gift just like that.  A flyer, business card, magnet etc. are all little extra things that keep them thinking about your store long after leaving it.At Christmas time it could be something as simple as slipping a candy cane in the bag, nut and allergy free! I know it costs a bit more money but you will reap the rewards in the long run.

Retail is NOT dead. Many of these points are really things that merchants have been implementing since days of old to set themselves apart from their competition and provide superior customer service. In the future, we believe there will be a convergence of brick and mortar and the eCommerce experience. Most Millennials prefer to research and locate an item on their devices, but still go direct to the store to actually purchase the item. One merely picks up where the other left off.

At Bankcard Brokers we take pride in making every effort we can to help our clients realize success. We would be happy to help you set up your loyalty program, order your very own store branded Gift Cards for your customers convenience, or update your POS system, and of course also make sure that your merchant account is set up with features and functions that are in line with your business model and designed for success. Our ETA-Certified Payments Professionals are well educated regarding the products and services of the industry giving them the expertise to advise you on the best solutions for your business. Don’t hesitate to give us a call and experience the “Bankcard Brokers Difference”!