by Jim Martin
Here are eight retail tools and trends you might want to utilize in your business:
Bryan Pearson, president and CEO of LoyaltyOne Inc, says more retailers have turned to loyalty programs thanks to digital technology that provides sophisticated options available to even the smallest retailers. Most loyalty program software offers components that makes it easy to tailor customer offers to their interests, demographics and past purchasing behavior.
Social media continues to be a key motivator of retail sales, especially for younger consumers. The purchase process often starts when a product is seen on social media, especially on visual sites like Instagram or Pinterest. You can raise your social media profile by rewarding your customers’ social behaviors Hold a contest on social media and award a gift card to the winner. Reward customers for checking in at your store or sharing your posts. Encourage customers to share photos of their purchases from your store. Enhance your social presence by advertising on social media, which enables you to directly target your specific customer base. And remember: social media customers love creativity. You could consider a bulletin board where customers can post selfies of themselves with your products.
While brick-and-mortar retailers are still challenged by e-commerce giants, interest in shopping in physical stores is on the rise. Programs through which customers purchase products online and have them shipped to a store for pickup are growing in popularity. If your store has an e-commerce component, be sure you offer this option.
In GfK’s 2016 FutureBuy study, Generation Z (born between early 1990s to mid-2000s) topped all other U.S. age groups in their preference for shopping in physical stores. Immediacy, enjoyment and concerns about online data privacy are key factors in Gen Z’s preference for physical stores. As this generation’s spending power grows, they’ll become even more important to retailers.
Americans of all ages now spend less on products and more on experiences. This trend will continue in 2017, says Marshal Cohen, Chief Retail Industry Analyst at the NPD Group. For many customers, shopping needs to be fun, exciting and memorable. How can you create an experience? Interactive elements such as tablets to entertain shoppers’ kids, in-store events and contests and selling drinks or refreshments can all boost the entertainment value of your retail store. Or choose a location near theaters, restaurants and entertainment venues to piggyback off their fun factor.
Salespeople matter. They differentiate the in-store experience from impersonal online shopping. 83 percent of consumers in a LoyaltyOne survey said an “exceptional” salesperson gives a retail store and advantage over the competition. Shoppers have a world of information about products available on their smartphones; your salespeople need to be very knowledgeable about your offerings to suggest and recommend them.
Smart retailers take advantage of the technology tools available to even the smallest business. Provide your salespeople with mobile devices they can use to check product information or inventory status. Speed up checkout by using tablets or smartphones to accept customer payments anywhere in the store. Use employee scheduling software to manage your store schedule and quickly alert employees about shift changes. These tools and more are now easily affordable to give you a competitive edge.
The future is bright. Now is a good time to be a retailer. Aging baby boomers, young millennials and affluent consumers all seek a more personalized retail experience, says Pam Danziger, author of Shops That POP! That will favor the special services and products that only local small businesses can provide. Your energy and creativity could put you in the forefront of future growth.
These ideas were provided by Kimco Realty, who own and manage hundreds of malls.