Most large retail companies now have a well-established website and e-commerce facility (if relevant) that complements their bricks and mortar locations and reinforces their brand. Having a strong online presence can expand awareness of their brand and products to a much wider customer base – especially in locations that are not near a store. The ease of internet access has enable companies to now broaden their local customer base .
Similarly small businesses with just a few (or even no) bricks and mortar outlets are reaping the rewards of a strong online and social media presence in a way that could not have been imagined 15 years ago. Many highly successful retail businesses have no physical outlet, showroom or shop at all. Although, interestingly, some businesses who have become successful purely online are now starting to open up retail outlets as they recognise that internet shopping, whilst highly popular, can never replace the physical shopping experience. We all need some retail therapy every now and then – being able to walk into a store and handle the items before deciding to make a purchase is hard to rival even with the most sleek, well-functioning website offering. They are also recognising that it is far easier to upsell with attractive displays of items the customer may additionally purchase than it is to upsell online where experienced internet shoppers have tended to become weary of the endless banner ads and popup ads to the point where they are pretty much ignored by many people.
Some companies even combine the online and real shopping experience by installing tablets and large touch screens in their stores so that customers can check stock availability of items not on display or read the latest updates and advice on the business blog. A perfect solution to integrating technology in retail stores.
Where items need to be matched to the customers needs, such as buying wall and floor tiles for a new kitchen, for example, the screen displays on tablets can help customers visualise their new purchase – the kitchen cabinet colours and designs can be brought up on screen and displayed with various tile choices to aid decision making. And even in large well-stocked showrooms it would be impossible to display every combination of cabinets, worktops and floor tiles.
Retail outlets backed up by effective technology can enable design choices to be viewed on screen and discussed in detail, and then actual items handled by the customer before they purchase. This ensures that the customer is happy with the outcome and a happy customer makes for a happy business. This is just as true if you have just started up a business as for well-established organisations.
The growth of this combined way of choosing and buying major purchases has been rapid, and reflects both improvements in technology but also a growing awareness amongst successful businesses of how to deliver a service that sets them apart from the competition. Remember to educate your employees so they can help the busines succeed with the new vision and way of interacting with customers.