by Forbes Communications Council
When you look at the retail industry and see e-commerce booming as brick-and-mortar sales continue to decline, it’s easy to speculate that traditional retail is dying. However, while sales at physical stores have been decreasing for some time, the explosion of online sales during the pandemic as consumers did much of their shopping from home may have made the situation seem more dire than it actually is.
A significant number of consumers have always preferred to see, touch and feel products before purchasing them. These customers, tired of being at home after a year of social distancing, are eager to return to physical storefronts. With e-commerce sales showing no signs of weakening, though, this leaves marketers trying to determine how to best balance their efforts in both buying environments.
As brick-and-mortar retail evolves to hang on to market share, retail marketing needs to evolve along with it. Here, 13 members of Forbes Communications Council discuss what the decline of brick-and-mortar sales means for marketers in today’s retail industry.
1. Omnichannel Marketing Is More Important Than Ever
With the evolution of retail, omnichannel marketing is more important than ever. Exposure to and consumption of retail marketing messages must be frequent and consistent. Without visible reminders of physical retail locations, excellent customer service, a customer-centric experience and a strong brand message across every customer touchpoint become even more essential. – Renee Higgs, Adaptiva
2. In-Person Experiences Incentivize People To Shop
Of course, we need to do more marketing online. But also consider experiences that incentivize people to still see (and shop!) your brand in person. Pop-up tents, roadshows and meet-ups help people who love your brand get together and feel important. Also, look at other things your loyal customers love (such as sporting events) and consider new sponsorships or in-person tie-ins. – Jocelyn Sexton, Dover Fueling Solutions
3. There Is A Growing Focus On Feature Marketing
The decline means less traditional brand marketing and more feature marketing. A quick search on Amazon will uncover that there are more unbranded products than branded ones, but why? Because they have the right features at a lower cost. E-commerce shoppers care more about the product’s features and functions and are more inclined to buy a product based on them. – Alon Ghelber, Revuze
4. Varying Purchasing Behaviors Allow For Customized Plans
More than just traditional retail is evolving, and a good example is the car buying experience. You are able to purchase a Tesla online and track your purchase through pickup at the car lot. Marketers are known for their agility, and varying purchasing behaviors allow us to create customized marketing plans for the longevity of the customer buying journey, creating a more cohesive brand experience. – Kris Pugsley, ON Semiconductor
5. Marketers Need To Adjust To New Consumer Behavior
Although brick-and-mortar sales are declining, it does not mean consumers don’t visit brick-and-mortar stores. Marketers should think about how consumer behavior has changed and adjust their marketing to suit those needs and objectives. By doing this right, retailers would see a higher retention rate and an uplift in online sales. Look at Amazon—it does have stores in the U.S., which shows you can’t ignore them. – Anthony Wong, Attensi
6. Modern Consumers Expect Transparency And Ease
Productize your offerings. Regardless of whether you sell products or services, the modern consumer expects transparency and ease. It’s important for both B2C and B2B companies to package their products and/or services in a way that helps their customers understand what they get, what they don’t get and how much it costs. Asking customers to request a quote will soon be a thing of the past. – Gyles Uhlenhopp, Perrill
7. Smart Marketers Combine In-Person And Digital Experiences
Smart marketers are actively tying the in-person experience together with digital experiences, making brick-and-mortar properties more valuable to customers. So much of what customers are doing that’s insightful is done online. That evolution means their behaviors can translate to top-notch CX regardless of channel—for example, taking new requirements that came with Covid-19, such as convenience and safety, into account. – Niki Hall, Contentsquare
8. Knowing To Engage Online Audiences In The Store Is Key
Don’t assume that the customer journey and conversion funnels are the same online compared to offline. Do the research to know how behavior is different for outbound and inbound communications when retail shifts online. Be ready to measure everything, optimize and streamline content and map out the right steps for how the audience will consume information and engage online versus in the store. – Corey Morris, Voltage
9. There’s A Level Playing Field For Smaller-Budget Marketers
Historically, marketers with smaller budgets have been at a disadvantage in getting the right shelf space, and this is about to change. It’s once again become a level playing field where brands that focus on the consumer journey, customer delight and innovation will be able to stand out. Empathy, honesty and trust will be key for marketers, and we will also see more D2C brands in the future. – Raghunath Koduvayur, IQM Quantum Computers
10. PPC And SEO Are Of Crucial Importance
The rise of e-commerce implies that pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization are more important than ever. The days of looking up a local shop on Google Maps and driving around to find the perfect item are in decline. Instead, the retail of tomorrow will be driven by inbound digital marketing—either through organic search (SEO) or social advertising (PPC or influencer marketing). – Amine Rahal, Regal Assets
11. There Is A Greater Focus On Storytelling And Authenticity
The big lesson of 2020 (and 2021) is that there are ways to connect with customers even if you aren’t in person. Product storytelling is a huge component of retail branding, and it offers an opportunity to showcase your items in an entirely fresh and new light. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio
12. Physical Stores Offer Opportunities To Build Loyalty
Treat brick-and-mortar shops as opportunities to create a brand experience that impacts brand loyalty and preference. Make the store a destination that is an extension of the service or product you are offering. Think about how the physical environment can bring brand attributes to life and show what the brand stands for. – Meghann Craig, Empower
13. Retail Is Dying, But Not In The Way You Think
Don’t provide products. Deliver experiences. The old model of retail, considered to be “warehousing,” doesn’t work anymore because the same product can be provided for less through e-commerce. Where marketers need to adapt is by focusing in-person retail on delivering unique experiences for customers that they wouldn’t otherwise receive with e-commerce. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
Article originally appeared on Forbes.
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