Brick and mortar retailers can compete with their online competition

SucrerieThere is a lot to say about the convenience of sitting down in front of my computer at 11:00 at night shopping for a little black dress I happened to see on a movie I was watching with my friends. Not that it matters what I’m shopping for, since online shopping has grown exponentially.

The most popular products selling online are computer software, electronics, digital books and magazines, yet other online retailers have also taken a notable place in the wallets of American shoppers. When you think of the convenience that online stores are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days per year, it can certainly make that July 4th celebration where area stores close for the holiday inconsequential, because if you feel like shopping, just hit any key on your computer. Even if you’re bored, there’s no need to get dressed, warm up your car, find a parking place, or wake up your spouse to tell him you’re going shopping.

There are, however in this alleged perfect world of online shopping, distinct disadvantages that all brick and mortar retailers can take advantage of to increase their businesses while building customer loyalty so these very same customers will want to return to your store at a specific street address. Let’s face it – internet shopping is impersonal, dispassionate, and detached. As a brick and mortar establishment, it all adds up to improving and perfecting customer service. Here are some suggestions:

  • There’s nothing more motivating to a shopper than being captured with the “experience” as she walks into a store. Have you ever walked into the Apple store? Even my son has to pull me out to tell me it’s time to go. Make the store experience relaxing, interesting, show plenty of displays, use interactive displays if the product is applicable, and use senses and sounds.
  • Make me feel important when I walk into your store. Have in-store promotions and special sales or previews for customers who have been loyal and continue to shop in your store. Do you do home deliveries? Do you do free alterations?
  • Stay in communication with me by direct email, newsletters, interesting guides, and trends pertaining to your product or service and individual thank you notes and gratitude cards. I never get tired of receiving good news in the mail; it’s a refreshing diversion from mortgage payments, electric bills, and car repair maintenance. When I lived in New Jersey, I used to shop at a boutique in Spring Lake called The Spot. The owner, Isa would always send out something personal in order to stay connected with her customers. It’s a fool-proof and endearing method for staying in touch.
  • Have special occasions in your stores. Internet companies can only display special occasions on their websites, but brick and mortar stores can bring in refreshments, champagne, wine and cheese, and make the experience personal and fun. I don’t especially remember which website was running the anniversary sale, but I remember the champagne Isa served and the fun we had at her boutique when we collectively celebrated her tenth anniversary of her store.
  • Do something very special for your customers. It’s not always about running a sale and trying to compete with the discounted prices of your competition on the Internet. It’s more about you doing something special for your clients. Perhaps buy one and get something free? Perhaps buy a certain amount and receive a certificate for ice-cream at the store two doors down the street? Just make it special so your customers will remember you.

photo credit: besopha

2 Responses to “Brick and mortar retailers can compete with their online competition”

  1. Dominic said:

    Jul 24, 11 at 12:17 am

    Thanks for writing the post and your blog in general. I’m planning a start-up and your blog is really informative in breaking down the pros and cons of both online and retail customer service!

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    Feb 26, 13 at 1:40 pm

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