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Rising costs, overheads and rates, in line with the growth and convenience of online shopping has presented the traditional bricks and mortar retailer with some very real and serious challenges, as we’ve recently seen with the high-profile woes at Debenhams and House of Fraser.

So, does this mean the end is nigh for these types of business, or is it a case that, in order to survive and thrive, they are going to have to adapt to the modern retailers’ expectations?

The Experience Economy

Online shopping provides a level of convenience that that physical stores really would struggle to compete with. Searching, finding and selecting a pair of jeans via a laptop in your living room is a lot easier than wandering up and down overloaded clothes aisles, seeking the pair you want, in the size you need.

In which case, the department store needs to find another way to incentivise the customer into the store.

A lot has been written in recent times about how society is placing increasingly higher value on the ‘experiences’ over commodity items. And this is something that the high street store can still offer.

Returning to the classic notion that a visit to a department store should be an event, something that is enjoyable in and of itself, rather than simply as a means to buy stuff, might be the pathway to incentivising shoppers across the threshold.

Retail as a leisure activity.

It’s by no means a new concept, but is it a case that it’s a concept that stores have abandoned in favour of less-appealing environments where the focus was all on the mighty pound?

Debenhams have already grasped the nettle, looking towards experiential retail as a way of turning their fortunes around. Their latest store in Watford, offering such things as a beauty salon treatments, and even a Gin Bar.

Bringing Personal Shopping into the Mainstream

The traditional view of personal shopping is that it’s something of an exclusive service, reserved for the big-spending VIPs.

But why should it be so?

If there is a case for making in-store experiences more memorable, then there is certainly a case for broadening the personalised service customers can receive in-store.

After all, the Amazon effect of remembering our purchases and offering personal recommendations is an expected part of the online experience – so why not replicate this with an in-store equivalent?

This might be providing customers with a simple way to book an in-store appointment online, using the booking journey as a way to gather information about the client such as favoured styles, clothes sizes, maybe even their preferred tipple, to ensure the experience is enjoyable and catered to their tastes in the store.

What could this achieve?

  • A good experience for the customer feeding into greater brand loyalty
  • Personal information gathered when a booking is made can empower the in-store staff to tailor the offering to the client, encouraging greater revenue opportunities.
  • Personal shopping can generate 4 TIMES more than the average walk-in customer
  • Data insight for personalised marketing online and offline in the future

The worrying risk of store closures and the loss of jobs is clearly very real on the UK High Street in 2018. It’s reflective of high costs and changes to the way we all shop and indeed live our lives.

The traditional retailer has some challenges and will have to make some tough decisions and changes to the way they operate in order to meet them. Moving towards a more leisure oriented in-store experience is certainly a means to help encourage more people back into the store. In conjunction with this is the need to create a more personalised experience for the customer, consistent across online and offline channels, through intelligent capture and application of data, and greater focus on in-store appointments, consultations and events to help generate greater loyalty to the brand and higher spending customers.

Article written by Gareth Rees Jones, Managing Director of thinkBooker, an online booking and scheduling system that allows retailers to join up their online and offline channels to improve customer experience.

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