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How Brick-and-Mortar Merchants Can Compete with Online Retailers

Technology presents nearly as many challenges to business owners as it does efficiencies, and no one knows this better than brick-and-mortar retailers. For a long time, these merchants have felt pressure from their online competitors, but a recent study by TimeTrade shows that the outlook for physical stores is much better than many people realize.

 According to the study, 85 percent of customers prefer to shop at a physical location rather than online, and 90 percent would likely make a purchase after getting assistance from an in-store service representative (1). Even millennials, the most elusive of all shoppers, are willing to make an appointment in-store to get a more personal shopping experience. Despite the conveniences of online shopping, customers still prefer to see and touch an item, and even talk to an experienced associate, before making a purchase. Brick-and-mortar retailers can build on these advantages by adopting some of the most convenient aspects of shopping online and bringing them in-house. Let's explore a few.

 Start a loyalty program

The most lucrative customers are usually the ones most likely to frequent your store. Customer loyalty programs offer rewards to encourage repeat customers, and incentivize them to spend more per visit (2). Whether the goal is to jumpstart weak sales or make a strong revenue stream even stronger, loyalty programs can be effective as long as the rewards are real and compelling to your customers. When these incentives bring customers back more often, it gives them a chance to browse and discover new products, which they might otherwise only hear about through advertising or word-of-mouth.

Introduce mobile POS to your store

Mobile point-of-sale is one of the fastest growing trends in the retail industry. A mobile POS is a smartphone, tablet or dedicated wireless device that performs the functions of a cash register or electronic point of sale terminal. Combining the best aspects of online and in-store retail,  a mobile POS not only makes shopping easier for customers, it also saves retailers money.

Associates can use a mobile POS to assist customers in multiple ways. They can help people compare different products with reviews and descriptions, complementing their own expertise with additional data (3). If the customer wants more time to think about a purchase, the associate can take their email address and send them links to all the products they looked at, keeping them focused on your brand and preventing them from wandering to other retailers. Most importantly, employees can process transactions right on the sales floor. This saves customers time spent in line and saves retailers from having to staff multiple check-out registers.

As the retail industry begins to adopt EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) standards for payment cards, you should consider adopting a mobile POS system that includes this security technology. EMV replaces the magnetic strip on the back of payment cards with a more secure chip. The result is one more step you can take to protect sensitive customer data.

Adopt mobile marketing strategies

Having a mobile marketing strategy is becoming increasingly important to reach customers, both in-store and beyond. Offering incentives for social media check-ins rewards your customers while advertising your brand to their friends at the same time. Social media check-ins can also give you valuable insight into who is visiting your store and what interests them. For instance, a restaurant could offer a free appetizer when patrons check in on Facebook. You can also use Foursquare, which allows people to leave tips and recommendations for other customers who visit you, to promote your business (4).

By staying engaged with your social media fans and followers, you can better understand their interests and tastes. You can even offer a coupon that people can store on Passbook until the next time they visit your physical store.

 Brick-and-mortar stores still offer many advantages to customers that ecommerce retailers cannot, including a tangible shopping experience and more personalized customer service. Offline merchants can maintain and grow their businesses if they adopt the best aspects of ecommerce retail – like mobile POS and loyalty programs – and use them to leverage the best customer experience possible.

  1. http://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/articles/study-consumers-still-prefer-bricks-to-bytes/
  2. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/233362
  3. http://blog.bazaarvoice.com/2013/09/04/mobile-checkout-brings-the-best-of-ecommerce-into-the-brick-and-mortar-store/
  4. http://info.localytics.com/blog/why-brick-and-mortar-stores-need-a-mobile-strategy

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