As retailers grapple with a consumer-centric environment, it’s clear that prior strategies to drive sales and traffic are no longer viable.
And adopting a broad omnichannel approach doesn’t guarantee success. One size doesn’t fit all. But by leveraging technology and data, and using it in a tailored way — whether the retail format is a showroom, retail lab or experiential — companies can maximize sales in stores and online, said Shelley E. Kohan, vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext Inc., in her presentation, “Transforming the Retail Experience.”
One of the primary goals, Kohan said, is to better engage the consumer. And that’s not an easy task. “Shoppers expect friction-free shopping,” Kohan explained. “They expect no waiting on lines, and knowledgeable sales associates. And they desire an experience. And they also expect engagement.”
Kohan said as the retail market shifts with consumers’ preference changes, store traffic has been down for the past three years. “Shoppers don’t have to go to a physical store. But it is the job of the retailer to drive them in.”
The executive told attendees that there are behavioral access points to better engage shoppers, which include people’s innate desire for socialization and exploration. She urged attendees to rethink physical stores as a distribution center as well as a destination.
And to offer better “store experiences,” Kohan said retailers need to develop fine-tuned strategies that involve collecting and measuring data. There’s no single, magic bullet, though. And it takes work to transform. She also stressed that simply using technology and data, “doesn’t become relevant until you have insights.” But once the insights are achieved, action can be taken, she said.
By way of example, Kohan noted the “knowledge deficiency gap” that exists on the sales floor. This is when a consumer has spent time researching a product or category and as a result knows more than the sales associate. The result is a soured shopping experience for the consumer.
Here the data reveals a knowledge chasm and a need for training. And since many retailers are now using iPads on the sales floor, which often include an employee portal, scheduling tools and payment solutions, “Why not include a training app?” Kohan said, adding that it is important to build a “strategic framework” when store-level insights are discovered.
Kohan noted that each retail format also requires different measurements for developing strategies. She said if a store is a showroom format, for example, measuring and testing products and displays as well as demographic data regarding product preferences would be needed.
And if a store is more of a warehouse format, the data measurements would emphasize staffing. “You would leverage the physical and digital data together,” Kohan added.