Subtle changes in bricks and mortar stores are helping retailers take advantage of buyer preferences that are emerging as a result of online shopping.

The spate of recent store closures shows that Australian retailers need to treat disruption as business as usual. This is quite a shift for an industry accustomed to measured, strategic planning. Across the world, even well-established bricks and mortar retailers are monitoring sales performance closer than ever and making changes at nearly the real-time pace of online retailers. It’s increasingly a case of either step-up, or be forced to step aside when a competitor challenges you in your market.

Despite all this, adapting to change does not need to be difficult – especially with good planning and expertise.

1.Less is more

Holding large amounts of stock in a store is perhaps one of the most scrutinised decisions among retailers today. With rental costs[1] escalating, floor space is often a scarce commodity and the expenses associated with receiving, unpacking and displaying large quantities of stocked items can be substantial. If bulk items are mostly held in stores rather than a centrally located warehouse, it also becomes harder to easily move stock when unexpected demand hits.

Some fashion retailers have learnt from their online competition and are choosing instead to stock just one size of each item, for the customer to try on. Purchases are then shipped directly to the customer, increasing floor space for more interactive stations and giving employees more time to offer a personalised and memorable service.

2. Seamless service

Another area of frustration and lost opportunity is the Point-of-Sale (POS). A mobile POS solution frees sales people to be on the shop floor with their customers, streamlining the purchase process and allowing for more engaging and personalised levels of service.

Importantly, these POS units sync up with the retailer’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to offer immediate access to pricing information and stock levels, reducing the time sales staff spend rummaging through store rooms. With stock information at their fingertips, they can easily suggest alternative items if a product is out of stock, or highlight promotions and discounts to close more sales.

These technologies also provide retailers with another great advantage – they can capture customer information on the spot, recording their likes and dislikes, as well as names and email addresses. This is invaluable information for retailers, helping them to predict or encourage future sales, or to open up a dialogue with customers once they step out the shop door.

3. Top of mind

Collecting information on the shop floor is only part of the story – it’s how it’s used that really counts. Making the most of the information collected on the shop floor, whether offline or online, means having a smart customer relationship management (CRM) system in place. A CRM system will take the data collected along a customer’s journey to help build a picture of who they are, their preferences and purchases. So how can the value of these connected systems be realised in-store?

On a trip to the US, a colleague made a speedy visit to a store to pick up a few essentials. While at the checkout, she was asked for her contact details so they could share a digital receipt. Within moments of leaving the store, she was sent an electronic record of her purchase, with a list of suggested products that she might like to consider next time. This list included a product she had forgotten, prompting her to go back into the store!

The CRM system at this store had immediately updated her details from the purchase through the POS terminal, shared her most recent purchase history and analysed these insights to predict other stocked items that she might like, all in a matter of seconds, resulting in another immediate sale.

Additionally, while the CRM system recorded her information and prompted her to purchase more from the store, these details could have also been instantly fed into an ERP solution, updating stock levels and sending alerts to purchasing teams. Ultimately, CRM solutions that are connected to a retailer’s ERP system deliver insights that can help manage everything from stock levels and sales forecasts to staff scheduling.

4. Change the game

Retailers that are investing in emerging technologies for their physical shops are now identifying new ways to connect with their customer on a more personal level. They’re finding ways to add value at every stage of the buyer journey, and removing the traditionally arduous steps involved with an in-store purchase.

According to Gartner[2], IT investment in the Australian retail sector will reach almost AU$4.9 billion in 2019. Smart, competitive retailers are those investing in technologies that improve the in-store experience, mirroring the ease of online. This will help you increase revenue and build loyalty – and perhaps show the purely online retailers a few new tricks of your own!

By Les Bruzzaniti, Product Manager Retail and CRM, Pronto Software

[1] SMH – Pitt Street trumps Rodeo Drive in top 10 priciest retail strips, Nov 14 2018

[2] Gartner says retailers are investing heavily in digital capabilities to meet customer expectations