Opinion: Humanise your store

Humanise your store to compete with online retailers, says Lauren Green, copywriter at Time & Tide.

The popularity of online retail has grown significantly over the past several years. According to recent reports, online retail is now growing at the expense of offline. Convenience is, most likely, the critical factor when it comes to shopping, and is why many consumers are turning to the computer to order clothes, food and more. Similarly, next-day and even same-day delivery are coming to be the norm, making the demands for high street retailers ever pressing. However, that’s not to say physical stores don’t have a future. Far from it.

There is a social aspect to shopping that online can still not compete with. The face-to-face interaction and experience of walking into a store and touching the products is key to surviving in the digital era. Time & Tide, a luxury retailer of interior and home accessories, believes humanising your brand can increase footfall, and are sharing their tips on how offline can compete with online.

Be authentic and personable
As mentioned above, the face-to-face interaction is the greatest attraction for visiting a physical store. While setting up as an online retailer can afford you many luxuries – reductions in staff and rent etc – customer service is often lacking with online purchases. However, this is where your business can gain the upper hand over online counterparts. As a shop owner, seize every opportunity to be personable and authentic. Interact with your customers, understand their wants and needs and act on them. Conversations can tell you far more than that of an online survey, so use their answers to your advantage.

Create a calming space
The convenience and ease of online stores mean high street retailers must offer something different, and create an experience for their consumers. If it’s just bricks and mortar with nothing to offer, why should they travel to your store? Provide seating and relaxation areas, enabling the consumers to digest what the product offers. Take Topshop, for example, boasting a unisex salon in their flagship London store. Thus, encouraging consumers to stay longer, relax and peruse the shelves.

Go behind-the-scenes
We’re the first to admit we’re nosy. If there’s one thing we love, it’s an exclusive look behind the brand. Offer an insight into your store and, perhaps, the delivery of the products. If you sell ethically and locally made clothing, show the entire process to your customers to encourage them to visit. You could even offer an incentive, such as a free voucher for every person that watches the video and follows the steps (i.e. sign up for the newsletter) at the end. As an added bonus, you are combining your offline and online marketing, and creating videos that can be shared on social platforms to boost engagement.

Product launches
Celebrate new arrivals or product ranges to engage with your consumers and boost footfall. Host a ‘party’ with free drinks for the first 50 visitors, or a discount for any clothing in the store. Once they are in the store, you can begin to showcase your customer service and offer something that online retailers can simply not provide. Everyone enjoys being treated like a celebrity, so show your consumers you care.

Become a local champion
Another huge advantage for physical stores over their online competition is the presence in a community. It can significantly boost trade to get involved in local activities, help out of events or even sponsor those same events and or local teams. This will help to publicise your brand and, in some cases, many consumers will actively search for independent and smaller traders to boost the local economy. Remember to start small and build your niche before competing with the ‘big brands’ in the industry.

Loyalty programme
Much like online retailers, you can use loyalty programmes to ensure and encourage return. These loyalty programmes could simply be a free product on their tenth visit, for instance. It doesn’t have to revolutionary, but it gives the consumer something to work towards and improve the chances they will buy from you again. Branded loyalty cards are also a permanent reminder of your business, every time their consumer opens their wallet or purse.

You must be more than just a retailer. There’s no denying that an online presence is hugely beneficial to consumers and boosting the profile of your business. However, take the time to understand those visitors and appeal to their needs to protect your brand from the tide of online retailers.

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