Brick & Mortar is Back, and It’s Better than Ever!
OK, now that I’ve gotten your attention, could this be more than mad raving? After all, by some estimates, there are 70 percent fewer CE storefronts than there were in 2007. In most cases, specialty retail has morphed into either pure integration or pure e-commerce, neither of which seems to need or to want a showroom.
In the years since I’ve left retail, I have often noted that the greatest apathy toward the retail showroom experience comes from the retailers themselves, as declining showroom traffic reaps, among other things, neglected showrooms. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the showroom experience irretrievably dead, or are many of us unnecessarily burying it, day in and day out? I’ve observed in the past that the online user review has become the demo of today, replacing actual human experiences of products and technologies with reported impressions of actual owners. Does the future hold more virtual demos, and fewer real ones?
From 2008 to 2010, a retail forest fire burned through the world of CE, destroying almost everything in its path. When it was over, nearly three-quarters of the storefronts were gone. Painful at the time, but considering how overstored CE was at the time, perhaps not an unhealthy thing, in the long view.
The scorched earth that remains has become fertile ground, I think, and I am seeing sprouts of great specialty retail push out and blossom. With all the shakeout that has occurred, you may be the only retailer in your town, or your part of town, that can give a credible in-store experience. Why not capitalize on that opportunity?
Tech ‘Discovery Zones’ & In-Store Events
The best B&M retailers I am seeing around the nation are creating technology “discovery zones” in their stores where customers can experience Ultra HD/4K, OLED, high-resolution audio, smart home/IoT technologies, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and anything else you offer the world that is new, noteworthy and cool. They often do this in conjunction with specific brands who are eager to help with marketing assets to minimize the investment and maximize the customer experience. What a great way to showcase immersive interactive experiences that can’t be replicated on any website! Show the confluence of new technologies, and illustrate them with impactful live demos and an enthusiastic, engaged team.
But it can’t end there, because that alone won’t bring traffic through your door. Another trend we are seeing and participating in is the resurgence of in-store customer events. At SVS, we use our considerable social media and digital marketing expertise to create excitement around our retail partners’ in-store events – and it’s a win-win proposition. Events are sometimes conventional retail promotions, but are just as often learning events with live presentations, centered around our brand, but could just as easily be oriented around other brands. We spotlight to our considerable fan base our partners’ storefronts, and they expose our band to their customer base. We do customer events and share experiences and knowledge that cannot be had virtually, and customers are exposed to your revamped in-store experience, perhaps for the first time.
Another big action I would take is to leverage the power of the Internet and your web presence to make it work for you, instead of feeling like you’re competing against it. Your website should serve as a funnel to your in-store experience by providing value and information, but also compelling reasons to visit your store. I’ve already made the case, in earlier writings, that Facebook and your home page are the storefront of the new millennium, and social media and digital marketing are the best and most financially efficient ways to drive physical traffic to your store.
Scalable Social Strategies
On a more granular level, SEO, along with paid search, social media and a user-friendly website are crucial to long-term retail growth and should command constant auditing and day-to-day attention. The beauty of it is that these strategies are scalable, both up and down. Yes, huge companies use them, but so do smaller ones, and the investment costs correspond to the size of the opportunity. Are your Google and Bing profiles updated with relevant geographic and product keywords and with the proper hours and contact information? How about your site’s SEO performance? Does every page of your website have a unique and relevant title tag and meta description identifying the correct product categories, brands, models and other important keyword data? It can seem daunting, but if not, you are losing customers who never knew you offer the products you do.
It’s not all on you, though. Working with the right brands is critical when growing retail business, especially in the era of digital marketing where attention spans are limited and distractions are many. Look for brands with these qualities because the most searched and best liked brands online are quickly becoming the most widely sought after in retail.