Do you ever feel like you’re at a disadvantage compared to pure-e-commerce retailers because you have a physical store? Don’t. Rumors of brick-and-mortar retailing’s demise are greatly exaggerated. More than 91% of overall retail purchases made in the U.S. still take place in physical stores rather than online, according to Deloitte.
Benefits of a Physical Store
Consumers love shopping online, sure—but they also love brick-and-mortar stores, for different reasons. Here are 20 benefits of having a physical store and how you can one to boost sales.
They Offer Convenience
Sure, shopping from your office or couch is convenient, but sometimes a customer needs something faster than overnight (or even same-day) delivery can provide. If a customer in the middle of a plumbing repair needs a part, she’s not going to go online to order it.
Make your store even more convenient. If you do sell online, offer the option to pick up purchases in-store.
They Let Customers Test the Merchandise
Of course, one big reason consumers still visit physical stores is to touch, try on or test products.
Make sure you have a variety of products in stock. If you sell 10 types of toasters, have them all on display. Put out testers of cosmetics or lotions. Have salespeople demonstrate or highlight features customers might not notice on their own. Take advantage of the tactile nature of a store: use music, lighting and scent to enhance the experience.
They help customers make a decision
Sometimes, especially for complex or major purchases such as technology or appliances, the sheer volume of online options and opinions gets overwhelming, and customers need expert guidance in making a choice.
Make sure you have well-trained salespeople who can sort through the fluff. A customer might dither for weeks over ordering a dishwasher online, but make a decision in minutes once an experienced sales rep shows her various models and explains the pros and cons. When customers come in with their eyes glazing over from reading online reviews and ratings, you and your staff can act as curators, helping them decide what matters most and making the right choice.
They provide inspiration
Plenty of people shop to get ideas, pass the time or just see what’s new. Hitting the mall to check out the latest fall fashions or visiting a home store to get decorating ideas are examples of this type of shopping.
Make sure your store is merchandised for discovery. Get creative with window and in-store displays and change them frequently. Simply moving merchandise to different parts of the store will expose shoppers to products they may not have noticed last time. Alert customers via email, social media or direct mail when you get new shipments or when seasonal products arrive.
They give customers emotional gratification
Plenty of people shop when they’re bored, lonely or feeling blue.
Make them feel better. Friendly salespeople who start chatting with your customers will lift their spirits and keep them coming back. If the salesperson remembers the customer’s taste, suggests add-on purchases and lets him or her know when favorite items come in stock, so much the better.
They seem more secure than shopping online
Some customers are uneasy about sharing their payment information online. For these shoppers, brick-and-mortar just feels safer.
Make sure you are protecting customers’ data. Regularly update your software, hardware and point-of-sale system. If you offer free in-store Wi-Fi for your shoppers, make sure it’s on a separate network from your business.
They make it easy to pay
Inputting credit card information online can be a tedious task, compared to swiping a card in-store.
Make sure your store accepts a wide variety of payment methods. All your customers should be able to pay the way they prefer to pay.
They have the personal touch
Having Amazon suggest something you might like isn’t quite the same as your favorite salesperson doing the same.
Make sure you take advantage of technology to personalize your service. For example, loyalty programs collect customer data about preferences and purchases so you can suggest the perfect purchase the next time the customer visits (just like Amazon does).
Sorting through thousands of options online can be overwhelming for shoppers. There’s relief in entering a store where choices have been made for you.
Make it easy on customers by curating a selection of the very best products. Shoppers will appreciate not having to make so many choices and knowing that someone they trust—you—has chosen the best for them.
Consumers often shop as a way to socialize with family and friends or as entertainment. Or they may be in a mall or shopping center to dine or see a movie and add shopping into the mix.
Make sure your store has an enjoyable atmosphere. Events like musical performances, poetry readings, children’s craft days or cooking demonstrations are all ways to attract passersby and keep customers in the store longer. Cheery décor, lively background music and a sociable staff contribute to the party atmosphere.
They’re their own advertising
Think of your storefront and signage like a billboard. They’re advertising your business all the time.
Make sure your signage is in good shape. It should be readable, on-brand and in good working order—no burned-out lights or peeling paint. Mix things up in your window displays to keep customers interested.
They encourage impulse purchases
Online shoppers may search for that $5 item to add to their carts to get free shipping, but in-store browsers are more likely to spend more than they planned.
Make sure you tempt shoppers to spend. Display lower-priced or add-on items near checkout to encourage impulse buys. Train your salespeople to upsell by suggesting additional items.
They give you the chance to show off your customer service
“Great” customer service online is still pretty impersonal, no matter how good it is. Great customer service in person is memorable and builds lasting loyalty.
Make sure you hire employees with good people skills. Train them well and give them the power to do what it takes to keep customers satisfied.
They build relationships
No matter how often you shop at a particular website, it’s a rather faceless experience. In a brick-and-mortar store, shoppers can get to know the owner and the salespeople.
Make sure you take steps to build relationships with customers. Use loyalty programs to identify your best customers and pay special attention to them.
There’s no shipping cost
Customers hate paying for shipping—so much so, many would rather get in their car and drive to the store to avoid it.
Make sure your store is convenient for customers to get to. Clearly mark parking areas; see if you can get some spaces set aside for your store. Keep your listings on local search directories up-to-date so people can easily get driving directions.
They’re a social experience
For consumers who spend more and more time on their phones and devices, shopping can offer a chance to get out and about and engage with others.
Make sure you create a community around your store. Hold events for your customers or get them to participate in a charitable event your store sponsors. Look for ways to help your customers get to know each other.
They’re part of the community
Your store isn’t located up in the “cloud”—it’s in a physical community. Use that to your advantage.
Make sure you participate in local community events. Get involved with charitable organizations, local sports teams and local business networking groups. Give back to the community and make your business known as a positive force.
OK, not all brick-and-mortar stores are small, independent businesses, but yours is. Play that up.
Make sure you promote the “shop local” aspect of your store. Use your marketing to encourage customers to patronize independent, local businesses like yours. Tell your story in your marketing and present yourself as the “face” of your business.
Returns are easier
Shipping a product back to an e-commerce retailer is often a hassle requiring a trip to the post office and a long wait to be credited (not to mention the worry that the package will get lost).
Make sure your return process is streamlined. Keep it convenient for customers to return products and never make them feel that they’re inconveniencing you. Did you know many customers will buy something new while they’re returning a purchase?
They’re a sensory experience
Music, sights, lights, scents, even refreshments—no e-commerce website can offer all that.
Make sure your sensory experience reflects your brand. Is your brand relaxing and cozy? Hip and industrial? Youth-oriented or old-fashioned? Whatever it is, use all five senses to convey your brand through your store.
Why do customers come to your store?