Opinions expressed by Entrepreneuri contributors are their own.
It has been an unprecedented few years for brick-and-mortar retailers, but in 2022, physical stores have started to bounce back. In October, nationwide foot traffic to shopping centers was up more than 18% from two years ago. Meanwhile, 54% of consumers prefer brick-and-mortar retail to any other channel, suggesting that people still love going to physical stores.
There are bright spots for retailers, but it is important to note that while in-store shopping has surged, the industry has evolved since the pre-pandemic era. Recent consumer habits and preferences that emerged during the pandemic appear to be here to stay.
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Related: As Inflation Soars, Consumers Want More Rewards and Shopping Incentives. Here’s How to Give Them What They Want
A lot of retail journeys start online but end in store
According to Google, searches for “open now near me” have increased 400% Year-over-Year, which suggests that even those who love shopping offline rely on digital tools to point them in the right direction.
That’s why it is essential to have a solid online presence in search engines and to improve your business’ discoverability by optimizing your listings in business directories and review platforms. To fully leverage this opportunity, you should ensure your business details are complete, add photos of your location and update your details when needed.
Social platforms help drive offline traffic
Social platforms like TikTok and Reels for Instagram and Facebook boomed during the pandemic and continue to be popular today. This is good news for retailers because you can leverage these platforms to drive brand awareness and foot traffic.
Social apps and platforms are excellent product discovery tools — even for physical retailers, as 81% of shoppers have made an in-store purchase after seeing a product on social media. To stay relevant, you need to meet shoppers where they are, and for many of them, that means being on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
Related: Why Social Media Platforms Are Adopting Ecommerce as a Saving Grace
Product and order fulfillment expectations are higher than ever
The rise of ecommerce, “Buy Online, Pay in Store” (BOPIS), and same-day delivery has increased shopper expectations regarding when and how they get their orders. Research and Markets forecast the BOPIS market will reach $703.18 billion by 2027 — representing a 19.3% compounded annual growth rate over six years.
In-store (and curbside) pickup is here to stay; if you haven’t done so, it’s high time to implement these initiatives.
That said, it is essential to remember that the success of your order fulfillment efforts will also depend on how well you forecast and manage inventory. Customers have little patience for “out-of-stocks,” as 50% of consumers report that they will switch products, brands or retailers when faced with shortages.
This is why it is critical to stay on top of stock management. Invest in robust inventory and reporting tools that enable you to identify trends and make smarter ordering decisions.
Related: The Future of Online Shopping Is ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’
It’s more challenging to gain true customer loyalty
The pandemic shook brand loyalty, and shoppers switched brands at an unprecedented rate. Onaverage, US shoppers belong to 17 loyalty programs; but engagement is low, and less than 50% are active loyalty memberships.
Winning the loyalty game is a challenge, but not an impossible one. The key to improving shopper loyalty is ensuring your brand aligns with your customer’s needs and values.
Accomplishing that starts with obtaining the right customer insights. Knowing where your customers are from, why they buy from you and what their shopping preferences will enable you to make moves that are relevant to them.
Omnichannel is now table stakes
It is no longer enough to have a presence on different channels (e.g., online, in-store, social). You must seamlessly connect these channels to win over and fulfill today’s shopper’s needs, wherever they are.
To do that, you need a solid commerce platform with omnichannel capabilities. Investing in a point-of-sale solution with built-in ecommerce functionality enables you to sell and manage multiple channels from one system.
Another option is to choose a retail management platform that can integrate with other solutions. If you already have an existing POS system, set your sights on ecommerce platforms that can integrate with your current tools. Whichever route you take, see that sales, orders and inventory data flow smoothly from one channel to the next.
The current retail landscape presents numerous challenges; the good news is there are plenty of opportunities for savvy retailers to thrive. Equipping yourself with the correct data and tools will put you in the best position to compete — now and in the future.