Oxford High Street

Vaughan Rowsell, Founder and Chief Product Officer at Vend, shares what ecommerce ideas can be added to a brick-and-mortar store’s basket.

The death of the high street continues to be a regular story in our media. Articles regularly cite ecommerce as the force that’s grabbing market share from traditional brick-and-mortar merchants, diverting customers away from wholly offline stores. Yet research also shows that online retail can help drive in-store traffic. That’s because physical and digital retail don’t have to be rivals – they actually work better as allies.

Having spoken to and advised Vend’s own customers, we’ve seen first-hand how having a sophisticated, omnichannel online presence has been central to the survival and success of brick-and-mortar stores. By using some of the technological tricks enjoyed by online retailers, physical stores can operate more intelligently and successfully. Here are 5 lessons physical store owners can learn from online retailers:

  1. Use data analytics to make more profitable decisions
Once the enviable ‘secret weapon’ of online retailers, store analytics are now available to brick-and-mortar retailers too, allowing them to use data to help improve their offering. Tools such as people counters, sensors and mobile foot traffic solutions now enable retailers to get data on the number of customers in their store, their conversion rate, customer dwell time, as well as the most and least visited parts of a store.
  1. Personalise the customer experience to connect better with shoppers
IP address recognition allows online retailers to identify when a visitor is a new or returning customer, so they can provide personalised experiences online. Now sophisticated customer management software can offer equally valuable insights, allowing retailers to reward loyal shoppers through tracked purchase histories and general customer profiling. Beacon technology is also on the rise, allowing retailers to send tailored messages to customer devices based on their previous behaviour and location in a store.
  1. Display product ratings and reviews
With 61 per cent of online customers relying on user reviews for product information, customer reviews are widely proven to help drive sales, build credibility and eliminate doubt. So why shouldn’t offline stores use them too? For example, brick-and-mortar stores can take online reviews from their website and place them on cards alongside in-store products, allowing customers to read reviews, as if online, whilst shopping on the high street.
  1. Be proactive about collecting reviews from offline shoppers
With product reviews becoming an essential for online stores, online retailers do a good job of encouraging people to submit them. Many ecommerce sites will send out automated emails to prompt customers to leave a review. So why shouldn’t offline retailers do the same? This proactiveness should also be applied to occasionally following-up with previous customers too. Do your best to get to know them so you can provide a better service and keep them coming back.
  1. Investing in content and email marketing to raise brand awareness and drive store traffic and repeat purchases
It is easy to assume online marketing is only for online businesses, but there’s no reason brick-and-mortar stores can’t use it to get customers through the door and increase online and offline visibility. Customers are also more likely to be attracted to a store that has an online presence beyond a simple website, as unique content shows a passion and knowledge from a store. Email marketing is another way physical retailers can attract customer’s attention online - by proactively reaching out to customers via email they are not leaving their next visit to chance. When you crunch the numbers, the best ROI result is achieved with email marketing, and is ignored at a retailer’s peril.