Today I’m again pondering the topic of retail as stores like Payless close and Apple struggles to get people in their store doors. Ultimately when it comes to retail stores, people have to have a reason to go to them. If we’re being honest that’s true for any business, virtual or with a physical presence. If you don’t give people a reason to shop with you or stop by your site or store, they won’t. Yes, that reason can be a simple as cute pet videos or to see the newest merchandise or check if something is in stock, but it’s still a reason.
You also can’t tell me that retail is totally irrelevant, one of the biggest companies in the world, Amazon, has not only started creating their own retail stores, they’ve also purchased Whole Foods, a grocery store chain. You don’t do that if you think there’s no hope for retail. Then you’ve got companies like Tractor Supply and Best Buy who are doing well, with both a retail and online presence, and doing well with both. One of the most notable changes with retail over the past few years has been the grocery stores who have invested in going online to offer shop-for-you and delivery services, so that you get the fresh food from the store without having to shop or even go to the store if you don’t want.
However, there’s another side of this, and that’s retail companies who are moving away from or have never offered online shopping. They have websites and social presences, but if you really want to shop with them or know what’s available, you have to go to the store. Personally I think that’s extremely risky and don’t think it’s the way to go. I’m not saying that mom-and-pop shops have to have a huge online store with all their products, but if you’re a chain or have more than one store, you’re really missing out on a big opportunity to make some extra sales that aren’t all that costly with as inexpensive as it is to run an online store in this day and age.
So what’s the answer to retail? It goes back to where we started this post: you have to give people a reason to stop in. Maybe that’s demos or repairs. Maybe it’s the opportunity to try things out or on. Or maybe it’s simply the thing retail has always been known for: being able to have whatever you need immediately and in exactly the condition that you’re looking for.
Retail is a great opportunity if your customers are looking for a specific experience, if they have a specific need that’s met well by having a physical destination for them to come to, if you can provide them something in a physical sense that can’t be replicated online, or especially if you and your customers enjoy being hands on.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it all comes back to people. Every single sale may be represented by a dollar amount, but behind every dollar is a human, or many humans. It’s up to us businesses to care for those people, which means putting information, products, services, support and enjoyment in their hands, whether it’s through a retail store or online.
What’s your thought on the future of retail?