The retail landscape has been rapidly changing due to evolving technology and growth of different commerce channels. Traditionally, the goal of merchandising was to present products in a way that inspires interest and entices customers to make a purchase. Today retail merchandising goes beyond the presence of the physical store. Technology innovations such as eCommerce websites and mobile apps have forced traditional setups to jump on the bandwagon of the ever-changing retail industry or risk being left behind. With innovation comes new best practices that retailers must adopt in order to be successful.
The most successful retailers are customer-centric and understand that in order to retain customers, they need to meet their evolving expectations. These expectations are rising and today’s generation looks for a higher level of service across all channels. They prefer a tailored experience and prefer to shop within a platform that is customized to their wants and needs.
In addition, customers are sharing their experiences on social media platforms, whether good or bad. These messages can reach thousands of potential or existing customers. By maintaining a good customer experience strategy, you can convert customers into brand advocates. This starts with listening to your customers and understanding what their needs are. By understanding their ever-changing buying habits and adapting to their needs, your store will see benefits. One of these needs is having a streamlined presence across all commerce channels.
It is a pivotal time for brick-and-mortar stores as the presence of multiple commerce channels, such as mobile, online, or the physical retail store, are expanding. Multi-channel merchandising is an important practice in the retail industry. According to Crux Data, 28% of students research what to buy online and later buy it in-store; 23% research what to buy in-store and later buy it online. Students are already accustomed to using multiple channels and expect to have the options while shopping. A customer who uses multiple channels while shopping is more likely to have the intention to buy, thus leading to a purchase more quickly. The look, feel, experience and overall goals across channels should be consistent and create a synergy for the best overall customer experience; ultimately result in greater sales.
A big merchandising challenge is bridging the online and in-store experiences. The same level of customer service should be available to customers across all channels. When a customer knows that they will have a seamless experience amongst any channel, they are more likely to shop in any or all channels. One of the most important functions of customer experience is how your products are presented and how your product data is described to your customers. It’s all about making the shopping experience easier on the customer.
In an industry where nearly all products are easily accessible online, it is imperative to capture and maintain the attention of your online customer base. According to Crux Data, 91% of college students own a smartphone and can access your inventory from anywhere. Regardless of where they are shopping, you have 5-6 seconds to grab their attention and affect their decision. Utilize email, SMS messaging and digital marketing to capture the attention of students and drive them to your website or in-store. Use language that engages and speaks to them. Remember, they are more than just students. These are savvy consumers who know what they want and how to get it. Make them want to come to you.
Multi-channel retailing can be an investment in time and money but as the retail industry and your customers’ needs change, you will need to embrace and adapt to these changes in order to stay competitive.