This article is contributed by David Sprott, senior associate dean and marketing professor, Washington State University, Carson College of Business
The growth of e-commerce is no surprise to residents of the Pacific Northwest, but this holiday season it has many brick-and-mortar stores reeling. Why? This year, shoppers are expected to spend more money online than in stores. With features like free shipping and returns, it is easy to understand why consumers are drawn toward the digital shopping space and away from crowded stores.
But according to a recent survey from the Washington State University Carson College of Business, PNW shoppers still have good intentions of shopping in-store, with 7 in 10 reporting they are likely to shop in-store only this holiday season. While post-holiday data may prove this prediction false, it provides a ray of light for PNW retailers—consumers want to shop in-store.
For brick-and-mortar retailers, here are three tips to drive in-store sales:
- 1. Making shopping about the experience
People want to make purchases in-store but may need to be enticed by the shopping experience. Rather than creating short-lived promotions that temporarily capture shoppers’ attention, developing an innovative and unique atmosphere that draws crowds year may be more effective. round would provide lasting benefits.
The physical atmosphere in a store, including lighting, scents, music, merchandising and wait times, have been shown to impact customers’ perceptions and ultimately determine customer purchase behavior and overall satisfaction. Factors like long lines and crowds, in particular, can deter customers from making a purchase or returning to the store.
Finally, do not neglect the role that employees play within the retail atmosphere. The Carson College of Business survey found that nearly 2 in 3 people see employees as a valuable source of knowledge who can help with decision making. Retailers should train and empower employees to share their knowledge and recommendations with shoppers.
- 2. Offer exemplary in-store-only services
Most people shop online for convenience since they can make purchases whenever and wherever they want. To draw people back to brick-and-mortar locations, stores need to do more than just minimize deterrents such as long lines—they must also differentiate the in-store experience with other unique features shoppers can’t get online.
For instance, our survey identified a few services retailers can add to make customers more likely to buy in-store. Such services include: price-matching, easy return policies and access to the store’s online selection while in-store.
These services create a positive experience for the customer, making them not only more likely to return, but also more likely to recommend a store to their friends.
- 3. Highlight local connections
The shop-local movement has taken off across the PNW as consumers want to feel connected to the products they buy. Moreover, shoppers want the brands they buy to be connected to their community. For businesses that aren’t sure such a move will pay off, consider that nearly 4 in 5 PNW residents say they are more likely to buy from a company that has a positive impact on the community, and 7 in 10 are more likely to purchase from company if the products are locally sourced.
Whether a small business or a big-box store, retailers can find ways to incorporate local products into their inventory. If a store is already carrying local products, make sure these items are highlighted in advertisements and on the showroom floor. This might include “locally-made” signage or even a short narrative on the product’s local ties.
Going beyond sales, retailers should also find ways to give back to the communities where they operate. In Seattle, great examples of companies that create social goodwill through their philanthropy include Boeing, Alaska Airlines and MOD Pizza.
At the end of the day, e-commerce will be a large part of shoppers’ lives as they are no longer limited to shopping at stores located in their neighborhood or city. Thus, retailers need to provide their customers with reasons to shop in their physical stores. Now more than ever, brick-and-mortar retailers must innovate in terms of their offerings and atmospherics to attract and retain in-store customers.