Keeping Doors Open: Starting From the Inside Out
Over the last decade, the retail industry has evolved substantially. E-commerce continues to outpace brick-and-mortar strategy, dramatically changing the way consumers shop. Accommodating new consumer preferences requires brands — from corporate executives to field managers to in-store associates — to communicate, and regularly evaluate the in-store customer experience.
Fast forward 10 years later, and many brick-and-mortar retailers are still struggling to make ends meet. In the last year, we’ve seen major brands announce store closings, employee cuts, and quarterly losses. On the heels of Macy’s and Sears’ decisions to close more doors, both The Limited and American Apparel’s announced the shuttering of all physical locations. These decisions mark the latest examples of retail brands’ struggle to adapt to meet the demands of today’s consumers.
While technology has transformed the retail landscape, and despite news of major retailers looking to rightsize, the fact remains – brick-and-mortar retail stores aren’t going away. Recent data by Square Root shows that shoppers still like going into stores, with more than 65% of consumers saying they prefer to shop in-store because they like to touch, see, and feel products in person. And, despite the convenience of shopping online, 61% of consumers prefer shopping in-store because they can get their products faster and don’t have to wait for — or pay for — shipping. (All stats in article are from surveys by Square Root.)
While many retailers have focused on consumer-facing technology investments, they have neglected their in-store teams, a move that has proven detrimental for many brands. Innovation in the storefront starts with refocusing and re-investing internally. Implementing the right technology can offer teams valuable insight into internal operations across physical stores, as well as online counterparts. New tools can align internal teams, help identify key areas of weakness, and provide actionable data to drive real improvements in both store performance and customer satisfaction.
However, getting internal teams on the same page won’t come easily if they aren’t set-up for success. Many stores and employees aren’t equipped with the proper resources, and are left scrambling, with outdated and siloed tools. In fact, only 42% of store managers feel they currently have the proper tools and training they need to be successful. Moreover, many employees undergo sub-par training and onboarding, especially in the lead up to the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of store managers report that training new store associates is a challenge, impacting employee satisfaction and customer experiences.
Without the right tools, implementing new initiatives and measuring success is useless. Brands are spending too much time and resources making gut-decisions without informed data to adjust and improve. New tools and technology have the power to provide both stores and corporate access to critical data that can help brands and individual stores quickly learn, adapt, and realign.
Today, many retailers have forgotten what drives consumers in-store. They’ve become so focused on the bottom line that they’ve forgotten to listen to what consumers want, forcing brands that were once considered industry giants to close their doors. Not only has customer engagement taken a hit, but internal communication between corporate, the field, and stores is broken. Brick-and-mortar success now depends on brands transforming that relationship.
Today, stores are suffering because of their inability to quickly make decisions. With one in five store managers saying they don’t understand what they need to do to improve store performance, it’s no surprise that the in-store shopping experience has deteriorated. And with 70% of shoppers reporting they have abandoned a purchase because of a bad in-store experience, brands that don’t fix and re-invest in support up and down the ladder, have a lot to lose.
Now, empowering agility and transparency both vertically and horizontally is critical to saving physical retailers and the in-store shopping experience. Internal teams need to share and have access to critical data across all channels in order to successfully meet and fulfill customers’ requests. Consumers want and expect a consistent and cohesive shopping experience both in-store and online, yet many retailers are still missing the mark and are closing their doors because of it. Shoppers expect to be able to buy online and pick up or return in store, for example. A fully integrated omnichannel experience is expected among shoppers.
From corporate and district managers to store managers and associates, fixing the broken feedback loop requires brands to streamline communication and establish visibility into all stores. This will not only give teams access to the right information, but ensure that all learnings are being used to drive better decisions.
While the retail experience is changing, at the heart of it, consumers still want what only brick-and-mortar can offer. Consumers will always want to see, touch, and feel products before they buy. People want to be informed before they decide to purchase and will seek expert opinions. Last minute shoppers will always exist, and will remain dependent on stores. And, while we’ve seen many stores close their doors, physical retailers won’t be going away — but they’ll need to adapt and shift with the ever-changing consumer.
The past 10 years have taught us that meeting consumers’ increasing expectations can only happen when brands start changing from the inside. Brands that ignore this will continue closing their doors, but those that communicate, refocus, and realign will find consumers coming back to their stores again and again.
Logan Rodriguez is director of Retail at Square Root.
Study: Retailers need to pay attention to Gen Z
Watch out millennials, Gen Z is coming on strong.
With Generation Z expected to comprise 40% of the North American population by 2020, retailers must address the needs of this generation and understand its purchasing power in households, according to a survey conducted by HRC Retail Advisory.
HRC noted that recognizing the differences between generational segments and understanding the implications of Generation Z’s influence will be critical in successfully targeting and serving this age group (10-17).
To better understand the growing influence of Generation Z and the implications for retailers, HRC surveyed 3,100 participants from the United States and Canada on their attitudes, shopping habits and influences driving their purchasing decisions.
Significant findings of the survey include:
• Generation Z strongly influences parents’ purchases: A significant 82% of parents surveyed admitted that their children have some influence over purchasing decisions, while 93% of the Generation Z respondents say they have influence over certain categories such as clothing, footwear, accessories and cosmetics.
• YouTube tops Facebook as most visited social platform: YouTube is the top social platform for Generation Z, with 54% of respondents stating that they visit YouTube daily in order to receive information. This is a significant deviation from millennials who named Facebook as their most visited social platform. About 50% of Generation Z visits Facebook daily, with Instagram and Snapchat falling behind at 34% and 29% respectively.
• For Generation Z, Malls are Not Dead: Despite being raised with the internet, Generation Z is still going to the mall to shop. While approximately 60% of all survey respondents said they visit a mall or shopping center at least once a month, a whopping 72% of Generation Z respondents said they visited the mall at least once a month and stayed for at least an hour, visiting 4.4 stores on the trip. And Generation Z-ers are not browsers, as 60% of these high frequency visitors go to the mall with a clear intention of making a purchase for themselves.
• Generation Z Votes Friends as Most Influential: Moving forward, retailers will need to reconsider the implications of their selection of spokespeople to represent their brands. A majority of Generation Z respondents (62%) deemed friends as the most influential party on their buying decisions.
Athletes came in a distant second at 14%, with Bloggers/YouTubers closely following at 13%. Celebrity and singer endorsements were ranked the lowest, at 6% and 7% respectively. 89% of Generation Z respondents also said they would be more likely to enter a store based on where their friends shop.
• Digital DNA: Fifty percent of Generation Z respondents stated that they shop online at least once a month. Of those making online purchases within the last 12 months, 77% stated they have purchased something from Amazon, and 34% have purchased something from eBay.
“Retailers must be nimble in order to effectively appeal to Generation Z consumers,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory. “Resonating with this group at a young age can have a huge impact on retailers’ long term consumer retention and brand loyalty. Social media and digital advertising will be dominant in marketing strategies targeted to Generation Z, but retailers must adopt these mediums in interactive ways to inspire and engage this emerging generation of consumers.”
HRC recommended that retailers consider the following five factors to most effectively serve Generation Z consumers:
• Depict them as diverse (ethically, socially, fashionably);
• Communicate more frequently in short bursts using content;
• Allow them to personalize, give them control and preferences;
• Talk to them about values and social causes; and
• Instead of creating demand using Hollywood celebrities, use real people or Internet/YouTube stars to market your brand.
Division of high-end chain rewards shoppers with Nordstrom Notes
Nordstrom is giving shoppers a new way to earn loyalty points.
As of Friday, Jan. 20, Nordstrom Rewards members will earn points toward Nordstrom Notes when they use their Nordstrom credit and debit cards at the chain’s Trunk Club division, a personalized styling service for men and women, offering both virtual and in-person shopping options.
Additionally, Trunk Club will waive its $25 home try-on fee when shoppers order curated trunks of clothing using their Nordstrom card.
"As part of the Nordstrom family, Trunk Club is excited to be able to offer programs and services like these so we can continue to enhance the service and experience we're providing customers,” said Terry Boyle, president of Trunk Club.
These benefits augment the Nordstrom Rewards program’s other perks, including earning two points per dollar when using the Nordstrom Visa credit card, Nordstrom retail card or Nordstrom debit card; early access to anniversary sales, private holiday shopping parties, alterations, and personal bonus point days, among other advantages.