Is 2019 finally the year when artificial intelligence becomes commonplace in retail? Will you be greeted in the weeks and months ahead by a robot at your neighborhood coffee shop? Probably not. Perhaps that prediction will come true in the more futuristic sounding, 2020….
In the meantime, let’s talk more pedestrian retail trends for 2019.
Augmented reality (example: a supermarket’s app on a smart device can provide you with a graphic layout of the store) and artificial intelligence (example: a robot who greets you or can even make you a double espresso), might indeed become more common, but on main street USA, these tech trends still seem centuries away.
What can we expect from an average mom and pop shop? Well, for starters, independent retailers don’t have to invest heavily in new technology or replace staff with robots. However, what independent shop owners should focus on for 2019 is what has worked for 2018 and preceding years: don’t just offer stuff to purchase, offer an experience.
Enhanced Buying Experiences
If you’re the only game in town and sales are robust, congratulations. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Revel in the revenue. However, if you notice sales are down and/or competition is increasing, stay ahead of the retail trend of offering customers not just a place to shop but an experience.
Let’s use as an example a coffee shop in a metro area. How can an independent coffee shop compete with chain percolators and other independent roasters? The answer is don’t just offer a cup of coffee, offer an experience.
Host coffee drink-making workshops. Host a pop-up mini shop that complements your coffee shop’s offerings. For example, the pop-up shop can sell coffee-themed t-shirts, healthy snacks, etc. Host a live music series featuring local musicians.
If you own a clothing boutique, host a monthly makeover with a style expert. A temporary pop-up shop selling skin and hair care products may be a winner.
If you’re an independent hardware store owner, customers can buy batteries online. Offer customers more of a reason to come into your store by providing a DIY (do-it-yourself) handyman workshop. When people come in to attend the workshop, they will be more likely to buy batteries and other necessities at your store, instead of purchasing them online.
Special events like pop-up shops and workshops aside, you should strive to make everyday a unique shopping experience for your customers.
Make It Personal
Successful brick-and-mortar stores should borrow a page from top ecommerce marketers. Most people who make oodles of money selling or promoting stuff online have mastered the art of personalization. And even if you don’t sell anything online, you, too, can increase revenue by increasing personalization.
Here’s a simple way to make it personal. At checkout, you can offer an incentive such as 10% off to a customer for entering their email address. If you have a best-in-class point of sale system, each customer will have a purchase history.
Let’s say, for example, a customer purchased a scarf from your boutique. You can synch your POS with email marketing software (EMS) to send an automatic email (autoresponder) to that customer, notifying them of future sales on scarves. You can also use conditional automated emails to push sales on ancillary items. For example, for any customer who purchases a winter coat receives an email with special offers on scarves, gloves, ear muffs, etc….
Personalization goes far beyond conditional email offers. However, highly-personalized emails are a good place for retailers to start in 2019. Expect more and more mom and shops to personalize the shopping experience….
Selling on Social?
Let’s stay with the independent clothing boutique example. Sure, you might have beautiful photos of your merchandise on Instagram. But will 2019 be the year you actually sell on social media. Will you finally go multi-channel?
Perhaps the thought of having an online store is making your head spin. Just the thought of hiring a developer to create a back-end ecommerce is overwhelming. Well, even if that’s the case, you can at least post your items on Instagram (or other social media profiles) and offer them for sale only on social media.
In other words, reward your customers for following you on social by offering special social-media only promotions. You can have a picture of that scarf with a regular price and special Instagram sale price. Create a sense of urgency by offering an Instagram 24-hour flash sale. Add to the sense of urgency by mentioning in the post that inventory is low and the sale is first-come, first-served.
If you don’t offer multi-channel sales, chances are high that your competitors will. Stay ahead of your competition by being at the forefront of these 3 retail trends.
Bonus trend for 2019: more retailers will use cloud-based point of sale systems to analyze sales reports from anywhere. Contact us today for a demonstration.