Brick and Mortar Stores Proving the Zombie Malls Trend Can Be Stopped
With online sales in the last quarter of 2016 approaching 10 percent of the $1.24 trillion retail sales in the U.S. overall, and annual growth in e-commerce of $40 billion, brick and mortar stores are increasingly feeling the pinch. For some retailers, embracing e-commerce is the answer. For others, retail innovations that differentiate brick and mortar shopping experiences in a meaningful way are vital to organizational health and growth.
Experts say that Zombie Malls – hollowed-out suburban shopping malls – resulted in 89,000 layoffs since October 2016. To combat the zombie mall phenomenon and its resultant loss of local revenues tax receipts and jobs, retail innovations designed to bring customers back to brick and mortar stores are making a difference in cities throughout the U.S. The most effective brick and mortar retail innovations include experiential elements that online stores cannot provide. Let’s take a look at some of the retailers who are innovating successfully in order to revitalize their brick and mortar stores.
5 Retail Innovations for Revitalizing the Brick and Mortar Shopping Experience
No matter how convenient or high tech an online shopping experience, it can’t replicate a brick and mortar shopping setting where the customer can try, try on, work, run, hold, shake, bounce or otherwise operate products before buying. Office Depot is remodeling 75 stores this year with plans that include a more thoughtful layout and more areas where customers can try products before making a purchase. Their new stores also provide tech support services similar to those offered by electronic retailers.
Capitalize on E-Commerce Unfriendly Items
Home Depot is making the most of the products they sell that are non-ecommerce friendly, meaning, they are products that aren’t easy or inexpensive to ship and they include items where people might want to choose specific variations; an example might be when a homeowner is doing an outdoor patio project and wants to sift through available stones or boards rather than task a store or warehouse worker with simply gathering a quantity for them. They are also taking advantage of ecommerce technology to make it easy for their customers to order online then pick up at a local store, forgoing the wait and expense of delivery and they also equip store associates with smartphones that in-store customers can use to buy online for home delivery.
Offering Non-Online Experiences
Luxury retailers are also finding success with retail innovations designed to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores with experiences that cannot be replicated online. Examples include Story in New York City, which unveils a new branded theme every few weeks and Dallas, Texas’s FortyFiveTen which added fine dining, a champagne bar and a lounge where shoppers can relax, eat and drink while recharging their smartphones.
Catering to Preferences
Over the past two years Ulta Beauty’s retail innovations have propelled it into the top spot, enabling them to pass Sephora to become the largest beauty retailer in the United States. Ulta Beauty CEO Mary Dillon attributes the chain’s success, in part, to its relentless pursuit of discovering and meeting their customers needs and wants. Store associates go on “ride-alongs” with customers in-store, asking questions, gathering feedback and helping customers find and try products they might not otherwise have found on their own.
Customer feedback gathered in real time and data available from the store’s robust loyalty program give the chain’s CEO and decision makers a strong understanding of who their customer is and what they are likely to want. Nor does the chain ignore e-commerce. Last year Ulta Beauty debuted a virtual try-on experience via Glam Lab, where users can upload a selfie and test various products against their skin tone.
Discount retail giant T.J. Maxx, who recently announced the chain will be adding 1,800 more stores, builds in-store momentum by using technology to generate brick and mortar store foot traffic. Instead of selling online, they urge patrons to buy now, choosing to carry limited inventory that encourages interested consumers to buy now, before it’s gone forever. Nor is T.J. Maxx limiting its vision. In addition to the inroads their approach has provided in the clothing retail arena, its parent company (also parent to Marshalls), recently announced that the formula will be repeated with their HomeGoods brand, a chain of stores carrying furnishings, linens, and other home-related products.
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