8 Strategies to Help Retail Stores Better Engage Shoppers in the Age of Amazon

 Image courtesy of iStock

Image courtesy of iStock

For retail marketers, driving brand loyalty is increasingly difficult as Amazon continues to expand its product categories and further its reach into American households (think Amazon Echo). As Amazon continues to make comparison shopping more convenient and delivery times shorter than ever, there are some advantages brick-and-mortar stores have over Amazon, and the numbers don’t lie. 74% of customers still prefer physical stores compared to just 26% who want to shop online. Understanding the reasons that customers walk through your doors, and capitalizing on these differentiators, is the key to keeping doors open and cash registers humming in the age of Amazon.

Strategy #1: Empower Customers with In-Store Mobile Experiences

Shoppers today are tethered to their mobile phones, and not only to compare your prices to Amazon while browsing your racks. Millennials, in particular, enjoy shopping experiences driven by mobile apps, with 51% of Millennials saying they prefer to navigate, learn about products and pay on their phone while in store. As an example, the Apple Store app allows customers to make reservations for Genius Bar assistance, sign up for events, and get free bonuses like engraving and gift wrapping. Only one in 10 retailers currently leverage in-store features through their mobile apps. This represents a clear opportunity for retailers.

Strategy #2: Empower Sales Associates with Mobile Tools

Customers also appreciate when your staff is empowered to use mobile devices to help them on the sales floor- whether to look up product and sizing information or delivery dates, mobile lets you serve customers faster when they’re right inside your store. Nordstrom is doing this particularly well by enabling customers to skip long lines in-store with their Mobile POS devices and Michael Kors has all but ended the in-store out of stock problem by leveraging Tulip’s Endless Aisle technology.  The faster you can answer customer concerns and seal the deal, the less you risk in-store shopping cart abandonment. Mobile check-out combined with convenient digital receipts can create a win-win for retailers and customers alike!

Strategy #3: Offer Memorable Moments Only Physical Spaces Can Provide

The opportunity to try things on is one of the major reasons that people frequent physical stores. So why not make the dressing room visit into a true experience? We love the new Neiman Marcus digital “memory mirrors” that record a video of shoppers trying on clothes. The video lets clients see how the outfit looks from all angles and is easily shareable so they can ask friends for advice while in the dressing room! Solve customer problems in creative ways, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Strategy #4: Understand How Customers Navigate Your Store

Amazon has mastered the art of personalization, tracking shopper behavior both on their site and throughout the web to suggest relevant products at the right time. But physical retailers have the actual presence of the customer! Using tools such as facial recognition, floor sensor technologies and heatmaps, in concert with well-trained associates, retailers can tailor their stores to provide customized experiences and interactions while customers are present and ready to shop.

Strategy #5: Connect In-Store & Online Purchase Behaviors

A missing link for many omnichannel brands is understanding in-store purchase behavior. Customers are able to stay anonymous when purchasing from physical stores, so many retailers struggle to connect their customers' in-store and online purchase behaviors. Retailers looking to capitalize on in-store transaction insights are increasingly turning to digital receipts. Store associates gather valid customer email addresses in order to provide a digital receipt, and this information can be connected to online shopper profiles to provide a full 360-degree view of purchase preferences. At flexReceipts, we recommend following up the in-store experience with a survey to ask customers about their purchase while it’s fresh in their minds. flexReceipts digital receipts capture 10 times more survey responses than other methods.

Strategy #6: Increase Personalization

Up to 75% of today's shoppers opt for digital receipts. When a customer requests a digital receipt, they are likely to provide their best email address, which helps to increase the retailer’s reach and engagement potential. flexReceipts digital receipts have resulted in clients like Aldo Shoes adding up to 25% more emails to their databases, and leaders like GNC reducing their bounce rate by as much as 25%. The ability to capture more, valid emails and enrich customer profiles can be monetized in many ways including by sending smarter, more personalized post-purchase shopper communications.

Strategy #7: Give Shoppers Reasons to Come Back

Retailers can drive shoppers back into the store by embedding calendar reminders for upcoming sales, in-store events, new product releases and more within their email communications (including their digital receipts). Consider offering discounts with in-store bounce-back options. Just make sure to keep it paperless: don’t require customers to print out the email in order to redeem the offer. Instead, make it simple with embedded barcodes or QR codes for easy in-store redemption.

Strategy #8: Face Time

Nothing beats a personal, face to face relationship between an expert retail consultant and a customer. Encourage these relationships by offering social events at your stores and get creative! Williams-Sonoma draws crowds with their cooking demos featuring local chefs. Saks Fifth Avenue holds invitation-only trunk shows, giving their best customers a cutting-edge view of what’s in fashion each season. When you plan an in-store event, don’t forget to invite local influencers, who can help take your message beyond the four walls. According to Sociable Labs, 75 percent of shoppers who read social sharing comments about a product have clicked on the link in their friends’ Facebook posts, taking them directly to the product page or a retailer’s website. 53 percent of those shoppers ended up making a purchase.

Use Your Advantage

Technology continues to enable retailers to give customers exactly what they want, and sometimes what they hadn't yet realized they were looking for! Combining new tools with a personal touch can help your retail store achieve lasting customer loyalty. Find out what your customers like about their in-store experiences with your brand, and try new ways to make those elements really sing. Soon enough, your POS machines will be singing as well!