The headline “Retail Is Dead” seems to pop up more and more these days. As a matter of fact, the term “brick and mortar store” is something that really wasn’t needed up until this last decade. All stores were brick and mortar, so there was no need to distinguish them with that qualifying phrase. But these days, actual physical locations for buying products are increasingly under assault from online sellers. The online sellers allow people to purchase from a seemingly endless array of products without ever leaving their home. All it takes is an internet hookup and a device and, with one click of a button, the entire shopping experience that once required going to a store and buying the products has been streamlined. It’s understandable why many retail stores have gone under.
The fact that this is also taking place in the fashion industry has really opened some eyes among business experts. It was always thought that fashion would be one of the last bastions of brick and mortar strength, simply because you would need to physically see and feel the clothing items and try them on to get the best conceivable idea about them. But those who grew up playing girl games dressing people up on their computers and tablets have a facility for making choices about their clothes online.
So does that mean that the retail fashion stores are doomed? Not necessarily. They must certainly possess a strong online component to cater to those who are convinced that is the only way to shop. And they must do a better job of convincing customers of the value of coming into the store to pick out their clothes instead of simply sitting back and doing it all online. Here are some tips on how they can make that happen.
One Hand Feeds the Other
The retail clothing stores that survive must do a good job of building a solid online following and then convincing that following about the rewards to be had by both shopping online and coming into the store now and again. Store-only sales are one way that this can be made to happen. In addition, store owners should be interacting with their customers as much as possible, through the website and social media feedback, to find out ways in which the in-store experience can be improved. What do customers want when they walk into the store? What are the features missing? What would convince them that an in-store visit would be more beneficial to them than simply online browsing? These are some of the questions that the online outreach should attempt to answer.
When someone walks into a store, they might need something more to make it a great visit than just having them simply browsing racks and finding what they want. They might be looking for something more interactive. That’s why many stores are becoming outfitted with high-tech gadgets that allow customers to enjoy an artificial intelligence-enhanced experience. They might, for example, be able to see how clothes or makeup might look on them without having to try them out. They might also be automatically pointed in the direction of similar items simply by holding an item’s barcode up to a tablet or scanner of some sort. The key is ingenuity. If a customer walks out of store visit wowed by what they just encountered, the store has done its job. Granted, this often takes an investment in the technology. But considering the alternative is simply standing pat and letting the online competition pass them right by, it might be an investment that retail stores simply need to make.
Catering to The Audience
The one area where retail stores have the advantage over online stores is customer service. Actual human employees can provide the personal touch that an online shopping experience will always lack. That also means that retails stores must find out what needs its audience must have satisfied when they shop. If the store is selling to luxury-based customers, that might require a spa-type atmosphere of high-end frills that the customer can enjoy when they come in to shop. Those looking for bargains might benefit from an employee who acts as a personal shopper, bringing the customer to items that are reasonably priced but still fit their fashion needs. Stores must train employees to do more than simply sit passively by and wait for the business to come; otherwise, it might never arrive.
Retail fashion stores are reeling, but they aren’t quite down for the count. Store owners must be proactive in making the changes necessary to draw customers through the doors once again. That will take a combination of effort and ingenuity, and the stores who display those qualities on a consistent basis are the ones likely to stay afloat.