Owners of physical stores can find comfort in the fact that brick-and-mortar retail is still much stronger than e-commerce. Even though the e-commerce sales have almost doubled in the last five years, they’re still making up less than 10% of total sales in the United States. But even though e-commerce is nowhere near to catching up to traditional retail’s sales, there is one important reason why traditional retailers should be worried — e-commerce has more vigorous growth rates.
While brick-and-mortar’s growth rates are in the low single-digits, e-commerce’s growth rates are in the double digits. This growth can be attributed to the overall increase in Internet usage, but one segment, in particular, has had a large impact on the world of business. Mobile Internet is seen as the major game-changer of not only how people shop, but also how businesses operate. So retailers who traditionally already had more than enough corners that needed covering now also have to think about leverage digital technologies to help their physical stores thrive.
Improved Visibility with Local Search
There are plenty of wonderful things digital marketing can do for a brick-and-mortar store. But digital marketing contains a multitude of strategies, techniques, and activities, which can get confusing for traditional retailers.
If the main concern is to leverage the digital space to get more bodies into the shop, stores should make sure they are taking the full advantage of local search optimization. To do that, they will need to have some online presence, ideally in the form of a website that contains the necessary information about the store, including location, contact information, and working hours.
The website should include references to the location of the store, such as notable landmarks that are nearby, big nearby streets, and the name of the neighborhood the store is in. These references, also known as geo-modifiers, should also be added to targeted keywords to make them local.
It’s more valuable, however, to have a Google My Business page. Store owners can create them for free, and the more exposure they have the easier it gets to get online reviews. And online reviews are very important.
Provide Social Proof
Social proof is a term from psychology and sociology that explains human behavior in situations with a degree of uncertainty. For marketers, however, social proof is a nifty term that’s used to refer to the habit of people to seek out online reviews and testimonials before making their purchase decision.
And people really shop like that. They will research the products they are interested in buying, and the information they get from other people’s experiences will influence their decisions. That’s why online reviews are so important — if a store has a lot of good reviews, they can nudge prospective customers towards making a purchase. It goes the other way as well, and bad reviews are known to hurt businesses.
From the standpoint of a brick-and-mortar store, creating profiles on the most prominent review website is easy, but it’s not enough. Getting people to leave reviews needs some work. People respond well to being asked to leave reviews, however, so training the in-store staff to ask the customers to leave a review after they’ve made a purchase can be a winning strategy.
People still favor physical stores in large part because the Internet cannot provide the same tactile experience. Customers cannot touch the fabric of a shirt when they’re buying it online. They can’t try the shirt on to see how it fits.
But what they can do is try something out at a brick-and-mortar store, and then go and buy it online. And it’s not just that they buy it online — they often buy it from a competitor who offers the item at a lower cost. This is called showrooming, the concept that physical stores are showrooms where goods can be tried before they’re purchased online.
It goes the other way around though. Webrooming is researching the product online before going to a physical store to buy it. Both of those practices are a reality of modern retail, and brick-and-mortar stores need to adapt to it if they want to thrive.
Creating a virtual storefront is the very least retailers can do. This will allow the people who want to webroom their products to find all the information they need. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, as a Facebook page that’s regularly updated with photos of new products can do wonders.
Turning the virtual storefront into a virtual store can help with showrooming. Facebook allows the option of selling products from a business page. Retailers who have websites can upgrade them into online stores, effectively getting the best from both worlds and starting to operate as both an e-commerce and a storefront retailer.
Even though we’re still far from the world where retail is dominated by e-commerce operations, taking advantage of both traditional and digital retail opportunities can be rewarding. Retailers still have enough time to adapt to the emerging trends at their own pace, but the sooner they start, the better they’ll be prepared for the future.
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