By now, most parts of the country have eased restrictions and allowed our businesses to return to some sense of normal. Making our valued customers feel safe and confident in coming to our stores is a new practice that we all started when we opened back up. We have marked sections on our floors, six feet apart, at different areas throughout our showrooms to help practice social distancing. There are hand sanitizing areas and cleaning stations at various stations. Many of our employees, who are in direct contact with the public, have been wearing masks and gloves. There might be plastic shields at certain checkout areas to help prevent the spread of disease. We even make all of our consumers aware of the precautions we are taking by posting signage in and around our stores.
With all of the steps we have taken to create a safer shopping experience for our customers, what have we done to actually bring them into our stores to begin with? I am sure that you are offering longer term and/or deferred financing. You are probably realizing somewhat lower margins now due to the fact that you are offering deeper discounts to help attract consumers to your store as well. But have you rethought the role that your store now plays in this new retail environment? What about your website? Have you made that a priority during the shelter in place order? Have you updated or started running more online specials? Do you have e-commerce capabilities on your website? You should ask yourself questions such as these now in reaction to the new behaviors that consumers now are using to shop and purchase goods.
There are two main things that savvy retailers have done during this time to maximize the amount of market share they can capture. To begin with, they have invested more into their website. Updating your website to an up-to-date platform that can allow you to do such things as digital remarketing and deanonymization can help pay dividends.
- Digital remarketing is a method that involves showing ads to people who have visited your website or used your mobile app. This strategy is a particularly cost-effective way to increase your sales conversions because it is you reaching out to customers who have already expressed interest in your products or services.
- Deanonymization is a way of capturing a visitor’s identity on your website when they provide their email address and other information.
Traditional and online retailers have realized record online sales since Covid-19 forced a shutdown. There are people who are still skeptical of purchasing goods in a traditional way, and there are also folks who have formed the habit of buying online. There is also a third set of consumers that have learned to do all of their shopping and research online. That is when they choose the retailer based on their online experience and go into the store for the final act of their purchasing experience.
This is where we need to utilize our retail store’s “Ultimate Homefield Advantage.” Think of it as a huge closing table if you will. Making sure the retail experience is on par with the online experience is more important than ever. Identical product availability on the floor and pricing should be easy for the customer to see. The application process for no interest and special financing should be streamlined and easy for the consumer. Setting up an online pick-up section or express checkout is one feature that some furniture retailers have put into place. Selling the advantages of your store and your high level of customer service will be what sets you apart from the competition.
In the end, attracting a consumer into your store from the experience on your website and maintaining a consistency between the online experience and brick and mortar retail experience is key in succeeding in this new normal.
This article was first published in the July 2020 issue of Retail Observer.
Johnny Lamp is director of furniture for Nationwide Marketing Group