How Brick And Mortar Stores Can Adapt To The Age Of E-Commerce

Sundar S, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Dovetail FurnitureGraduated as an industrial designer, Sundar has worked in various domain ranging from retailers, institution builders, educationists, and technology providers

With the increased online and smartphone penetration, the Indian e-Commerce market is growing rapidly. Some of the key catalysts for the growth in this sector can be attributed to the growing young population, rising income demographics and frequent changing trends. Also, recent striking developments in the sector marked by key mergers and acquisitions certainly show that e-Commerce is growing day-by-day in full swing.

However, as e-Commerce continues to grow, the fear of death of brick-and-mortar stores also continues to grow with it. Digital technology has surely disrupted the way of shopping, but this does not mean it's a threat to conventional players in the category. In order for brick and mortar stores to stay relevant in the business they must adapt to trends and technology. By doing so, they not only stay strong in the businesses but also explore opportunities for the same.

Learning from e-Commerce
What makes online shopping portals the preferred choice? Is it the offerings, appealing user interface of the website or app, or flexibility to navigate across categories? The fact is, all these three key factors makes e-Commerce attractive and also enhances the shopping experience. Hence, visual merchandising plays a key role in experiental shopping.

Brick and Mortar stores must also adopt a similar approach in planning their shops or outlets. Lay-out of the store must be carefully planned keeping customer flow pattern in mind, making it easy for them to navigate through the store with-out any confusion.

It's All in the Looks
Besides products and offerings, shopping is equally influenced by design and ambience of the store. Having right shop fittings and fixtures helps in the proper placement of products and showcase them in visually appealing manner. Shops can leverage technology such as digital display systems to showcase available products or new arrival in the store by integrating it with fixtures.

Intelligent layout, well-thought designs for product staging and simplified shop design are the new trends. Remember, Strategic placement of a product plays a crucial role in influencing customer buying behavior.

KYC - Know your customer
Identifying the key audience is important for any business. No matter how broad the audience size may be, it can always be broken into fragments and narrowed down to specific target groups. This helps to better understand the audience and customize the offerings for them. This is true even for brick and mortar businesses. Identifying your audience helps you to understand their need and requirements. You can customize offerings and develop strategy accordingly.

For instance, if your target audiences are children in the age groups of 5 -10 years, then plan your stores design accordingly. Your store interiors may have pictures of cartoon characters, fairytales or any other design which attracts kids.
Shop fittings and fixtures should be of lower height making it easy for kids to select what they want. Your offerings may include merchandise of famous cartoon characters, T-shirts with printed toons and many other offerings which resonates around your target audience. Defining all these little details goes a long way in influencing customer buying behaviour and decision making.

Enter the Online Battleground
When digital technology is responsible for disruption in shopping, why not use the same digital technology for your own good? Going digital helps you to connect with your customers, share your story, listen to what people are saying about you and also, explore the world of business opportunities.

Technology and innovation has led to the increase in eCommerce growth, alongside internet penetration and ownership of smartphones

To get started, have a website for your retail store. This website need not necessarily be a high-end shopping portal. A website which gives information about your store, offerings, details of outlets and contact details are good to go.

Establish your store presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others. Up-date these social handles regularly. Use these platforms to announce new arrivals, product launches, shopping festival or discount deals. Be interactive with your online audience or rather virtual customers. Listen and respond to them promptly. This helps to connect with them at personal level and build a good rap-port with them. This is what makes digital technology interesting, right!

Going a step forward, request your customers to review your stores on social media or share testimonials of their shopping experience.

Leverage Data and Analytics
Data is the new oil. It is the main fuel for any business now. The concept of data and analytics is not just limited to online shopping portals. It can even be implemented in physical stores as well.

There are many analytical tools available to integrate it with your billing or inventory management softwares. This helps to analyze which category of products is fast moving, what type of products is preferred by customers (with respect to price range, quality, size, etc.) and their buying behavior. Collecting feedback from shop visitors will provide some insights and help to build strategy to convert them into buying visitor in the future. Similarly, collecting feed-back from customers and analyzing it will help to better understand their requirements and customize the offerings accordingly.

In a nutshell, leveraging data and analytics helps to optimize shopping experiences, business management and take new initiatives as well.

Experience matters too
There may be chances where the customer might not find what he needs. But if you are courteous to him, the chances are that he may visit back after some time for the same product.

Today's customer is not just particular about materialistic satisfaction but also more concerned about his experience in the store. Hence, it is very much important for physical stores to train their staff to be friendly and courteous with customers. Create unique and engaging experience for better results.

Be Tech savvy
Adopt new trends and technology to attract customers. Integrate concepts like virtual reality, augmented reality and digital display systems to your stores. Balance technology and human-touch to provide seamless in-store experience.

There is no doubt about growing e-Commerce business in the country. Technology and innovation has led to the increase in e-Commerce growth, alongside internet penetration and ownership of smartphones. But Brick and mortar stores are here to stay. In fact, many online players are now establishing their offline presence too by opening outlets across the country to adopt multi-channel strategy. In the years to come, e-Commerce may experience very high rates of growth but this is be-cause it is at a low base when compared to physical retail. Physical retail will in fact, for the foreseeable future be the largest share of where and how customers by products and services.

There are many ways how brick-and-mortar stores can maintain their market share in spite of growing ecommerce race. They must integrate the technology to their business rather falling prey to it. Nothing equals the look and feel experience of the product before buying it. Brick-and-mortar stores must focus on providing experiences that online platforms cannot provide.