Key Role of Physical Stores in Cross-Channel Retail
“Retail isn’t broken, stores are” said Ron Johnson in one of my favorite articles. The role of physical stores in the cross-channel era has been discussed widely by retail experts. But it seems clear now that they will play a key role to implement a successful cross-channel strategy.
Provide a delightful store buying experience
Customers visit stores much more informed than ever, armed with mobile devices and expecting to receive a personalized service. Stores must be ready to provide valuable information about products, suggest new sales based on customer purchase history, notice about upcoming promotions, offer different delivery and pickup options, allow to book products, etc.
Image: new generation point of sale terminals (Toshiba in Calvin Klein)
In-store devices like kiosks or digital signage provide combined digital and physical experiences where customers can order items, search for products and check their available stock in a seamless way.
Image: interactive panel in a clothing store
Free in-store WiFi access is another growing trend. Despite of the threat of mobile product comparison customers are going to use mobiles in store anyway and stores can embrace it as a new opportunity to better know and target their mobile customers in real time based on their store location while providing a better mobile shopping experience with a good quality WiFi. Retailers like J.C. Penney however have decided to eliminate this option due to its costs. J.C. Penney is one of example.
New value for pure e-tailers
An interesting phenomenon is starting to happen amongst pure e-tailers moving offline with physical stores. Well known cases like Warby Parker, the eyewear company, or Bonobos, the men’s fashion retailer decided to open physical stores to implement a broader, cross-channel approach. Even savvy online shoppers like to physically experience products personally. Physical stores help on that and to create more loyal customers.
Image : Warby Parker’s New York flagship store
Physical stores allow e-tailers to present new products, create awareness or experiment in new markets. They can be permanent stores or pop-up stores. Pop-up stores are run really quickly and remain open during a short period. This is a growing practice amongst brick-and-mortar retailers as well.
Enabler of cross-channel scenarios
“We’ve spent the last 153 years building warehouses. We just called them stores.” said chief stores officer Peter Sachse from Macy’s. Stores can effectively act as fulfillment points for online orders resulting in higher flexibility which enables services like same day or next day delivery, which would be impossible or more expensive with a traditional approach of centralized facilities. Orders from other stores could be also fulfilled from one single store.
Typical cross-channel scenarios implemented today by retailers:
- Buy online pick up in the store: customer pays order online and picks up in a store
- Cash on delivery: customer enter an order offline but picks up and pay in a store
- Buy online return in the store: customer buys online but can return in a store
- Sell from other store: although this does not involve two different channel types, it is also a common scenario
Reality however is that only a few retailers are able to implement these strategies since they can require investments in the stores, website, supply-chain systems, technology and employees. Unfortunately this is not a choice at all. Cross-channel retail is here and it has come to stay.
Learn how Openbravo for Retail business solution can help to improve your physical stores role for a successful cross-channel approach.