In our second blog post relating to an article published by The Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this year, we look at The Store of the Future. The ideas outlined below are all ways that high street stores and independent shops are fighting back against the threat to their existence posed by online retail.
In the previous article, we talked about the growing trend towards more localised stock selection – i.e. resounding to what the local population are looking for rather than trying to workout a national trend. One store that does this well is the casual clothing company FatFace. In its branches situated near coastal resorts, many of the clothes reflect a beach-type lifestyle, with images of surfboards and beach-huts. Rowing features heavily on the clothes range in the the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge while London branches have plenty of stock with ‘urban images’.
Another trend is the creation of more bespoke or customisable products.
Both trends reflect the need for a good area manager with excellent insight into the local population. Bespoke and customised products are a direct counter to the analytical advantages that e-commerce has over physical stores.
These are strategies that are happening now. But what about the next few months and years?
In a bid to deepen customer insight, many independent retailers have introduced loyalty schemes. Many more are set to do so in the next few months.
Of the 500 businesses who responded to the Economist researchers, more than two-thirds are planning to increase their in-store range of goods and change their range more frequently.
Click and collect
Merging the off-line and on-line experience is one way to counter the threat of e-commerce. By far the most common way of merging the two, is to introduce ‘click and collect’. Customers choose their goods from the comfort of their home and then collect in person from the store.
Nearly half of the survey respondents have cut their prices recently and another 12 per cent plan to do so in the next year. Many of the retailers have closed some stores, but by dropping their prices have recouped much of their revenue.
As we said in our introduction, a more local selection of products has proven to be a big draw for customers. It demonstrates local knowledge, it helps with customer and staff interaction and it is the antithesis of ‘big brand’ shopping, which s facing a challenge from local producers.
In-store demos and events
Many stores are planning to intrude space within their premises for ins-tore demos and events. These draw in both returning and new customers and allow a store to showcase new products.
In-store online orders
Many retailers are introducing the ability to place online orders in-store. Again, this is a merger of the online and off-line experience and is popular with customers.
This is the biggie. More than 70 per cent of retailers questioned said they have or plan to train their staff to be more knowledgeable and to be better focused on customer service. Two-thirds reported an increase in the number of staff on the shop floor.