Let’s face it: retail stores are feeling immense pressure from Amazon. The online goliath has hundreds of millions of products and many are loss leaders designed to attract buyers to the site in hopes that they spend even more on the profitable items. Given Amazon’s earnings numbers, the strategy appears to be working.
But, retailers can compete with Amazon by using some savvy strategies of their own. Amazon is a goliath but the majority of consumer purchases still occur offline in physical brick and mortar locations. In fact, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates that some 80 percent of purchases will continue to happen in stores in 2020.
Given those stakes, here are five ideas for retailers to use in their stores to keep the customers coming back:
Differentiate Your Business.
Although Amazon has hundreds of millions of products, its inventory contains mostly items that can be purchased from any number of places. Amazon’s advantage in those situations is that it can offer a lower price along with fast and (sometimes) free shipping.
In a recent report, McKinsey notes that traditional retailers have found success by differentiating their products so that a shopper can’t compare them to and then buy them from Amazon. Department stores have started stocking unique brands and products that simply can’t be found elsewhere, the consulting firm stated.
Focus On Data Collection From Store Visits.
Store owners can use their retail point-of-sale system to collect emails from customers and then use those emails to send out relevant offers and promotions. This approach helps keep the store brand in front of customers even when they are not in the store.
Similarly, the store’s digital relationship with the customer can be enhanced with a loyalty program. The loyalty program can induce repeat visits by focusing on a reward, such as receiving a prize after making seven purchases.
If the purchases from the loyalty program can be analyzed to trigger special emails geared toward the customers’ interests, so much the better.
Let Customers Touch and Feel The Products.
It goes without saying that Amazon’s website can’t let customers feel the fabric on a piece of clothing but the online giant is taking steps to make it easier for its customers to do just that. It recently launched Amazon Prime Wardrobe to let customers try clothing before they purchase with free easy returns.
That said, traditional retailers still have their products showrooms where shoppers can experience the products in unique ways.
For example, store owners can experiment with pop-up stores to offer hard-to-find products for a limited time. McKinsey noted in its report that Sephora found success in hosting in-store events where customers can try new makeup products and learn about the latest beauty trends.
Offer Advice and Authority.
Speaking of Sephora, the brand has become known for its beauty advice thanks to its trained associates. McKinsey noted in its report that Amazon’s ratings and reviews can provide some guidance to customers for product selection but they “still fall far short of speaking in person with an expert.”
Both Lowe’s and Home Depot have used this to their advantage by training their associates to be reliable experts and offering free “how to” classes to shoppers.
Offering classes is also a way to build bonds with customers in the community by gathering like-minded individuals together for a common goal: to learn how to get better at something. Another retailer that has taken this approach is Lululemon. The athletic apparel retailer partners with local yoga teachers and other fitness instructors for free classes and training sessions.
These events help strengthen relationships with customers and offer another way to keep them coming to traditional physical stores for a unique offering. One that they can’t find online.