Rethinking Retail in a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) World
The coronavirus has forced retailers to rethink how they present products in the quest to convince visitors to transition from browsers into loyal, paying customers. Though selling in a brick-and-mortar setting has become slightly more challenging during the pandemic, it is still possible.
The bottom line is there is no substitute for seeing, touching, and possibly even trying out a product in-person rather than viewing it from home on a computer screen. Brands that are flexible to the point that they reimagine their links to customers will not only survive the pandemic but thrive during this once-in-a-century occurrence.
How to Succeed in Retail During the Pandemic
The key to retail success during the pandemic is to align the buying experience in accordance with consumers’ nuanced needs. Brands and retailers alike will be well-served by gearing every aspect of the sales process to the needs and desires of the target customer. It will also help for important off-brand influencers to provide a rewarding customer experience. Though people are wearing masks and social distancing, it is still possible to enjoy a shopping experience whether at a big box retailer, a shopping mall, a strip mall, or another brick-and-mortar retail location. What matters most is that the in-store shopping experience is tailored to the target customers’ unique needs, pain points, and preferences both in terms of the value proposition as well as the experience while on-site in the store.
This is a Time to be Unique
Take a moment to consider the psychology of the average shopper during the pandemic. Most people have an overarching fear of the virus, potentially so extreme that they hesitate to shop at brick-and-mortar retail stores in-person. Plenty of customers prefer to shop from the comfort of home, buying with a couple clicks of their mouse button and a few keystrokes. The challenge lies in convincing target customers to travel to the retail store and spend enough time there to fully understand the merits of the value offering.
Customers are more inclined to visit stores and pay for products if they feel as though the shopping experience or another aspect of the value proposition is in some way unique. If the shopping experience is just like any other, there is little to look forward to, especially when the risk of a potential coronavirus inspection hangs overhead. This is a time to separate from the pack by presenting the product in question in a unique and manner through something such as an artful retail display, in-store video, and other methods.
Those who develop a unique approach to selling their product, be it in the form of a pop-up retail site, a unique display, or something like a “store within a store” will generate significant interest in their product. As an example, Target’s Ulta “store within a store” has proven quite popular, helping to draw interest from shoppers who otherwise might not have left the house to shop if the company did not create the opportunity to shop within a miniature store inside of its larger stores. This subtle alteration to the shopping experience really does make a meaningful difference from the perspective of shoppers.
Actively Steer Customers Toward In-person Shopping
Businesses will be well-served by providing target customers with information about their products on the internet yet artfully using their website and social media to steer interested parties to brick-and-mortar facilities. The internet can be used for educating prospects while sales can be conducted in stores. Ideally, the website will explain that the product in question is in stock at local stores. Furthermore, the website and other components of a company’s online footprint should also detail exactly how many of those items are in stock and which specific stores they are stocked in. Provide this information online and customers will be motivated to make the trip to the local store, knowing the product they have in mind is stocked and available for sale.
The most advanced analytics are finely tuned to the point that they detail which customers shop in specific stores and the times at which those shopping experiences are likely to occur. Merchants and brand managers can use these analytics to their advantage, ultimately helping them better understand the habits and preferences of target customers. Those who make an effort to understand their customers will have a general idea of their psychology and subsequently tailor their value offering with that mindset in mind (pun intended). This understanding is essential to maximizing in-person sales at retail locations.
Make the Shopping Experience as Rewarding as Possible
People are looking for something highly unique and rewarding when they are shopping. From creative displays to uber-helpful customer service representatives, live demonstrations of products, or even informative video content shown on TVs near the products, every little bit of creativity helps. Make the shopping experience rewarding and insightful and that many more people will be willing to leave their homes during the pandemic to shop in-person at local retail stores. Resist the temptation to assume the product will sell itself, inject some creativity into the shopping experience, and word about the merit of the store will gradually spread, increasing visits and sales all the more.