The Future of In-Store Retail is Digital

Lori Maupas
Lori Maupas, Senior Editor

2018 has been a turbulent year for the high street. Across the UK, U.S., France and Canada, stores seem to be closing left, right and center.  

But whilst some are falling, others are thriving. Brands such as Marks & Spencer, BHS, New Look, Toys ‘R’ Us, Walgreens and more are closing some or all of their stores in a bid to combat falling revenue and footfall. However, other retailers such as JD Sports, Aldi, Lidl, Dollar Tree, Next and John Lewis are performing well and plan to add to their portfolio of stores over the next 18 months and beyond.

What can we learn from this and are there any trends to take note of? One thing’s for certain: The future of in-store retail is digital.

The Rise of e-Commerce

This trend isn’t new: The Financial Times reported that since 2016, online is now growing at the expense of offline. Companies such as Amazon and eBay have made buying online the norm these days, and we have seen many businesses follow suit to try and strike gold in the potential mine of online e-commerce.

But for certain industries, a mixed presence of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar works best. This strategy, however, brings with it significant risk, as the investment needed to have a presence both on- and offline can be costly.

Increasingly, brands are targeting taking an omnichannel approach, creating a shopping experience in which physical stores and online sites co-exist, enabling a streamlined process for customers, regardless of how they interact with your brand.

According to Cradlepoint, the physical store remains the primary touchpoint for customers, but 69% prefer to do research beforehand online, which emphasizes the importance of the omnichannel strategy. Examples of brands that are embracing this approach include Virgin Holidays, Tesco and interestingly, Facebook.

How Does Your Brand Look Online?

If you’re looking to bring footfall to your store and traffic to your website, a good online reputation should top of mind. Of consumers surveyed by Forbes, 72% conduct research before visiting a store. With so many shoppers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation – 85% to be exact – it’s never been more important to get a handle on how you manage customer feedback.

If you’re spending vast sums on marketing to promote your brand name, but a simple search online reveals a mass of unmanaged negative feedback, who are your potential customers going to believe: The company who is expected to paint itself in a positive light, or customers who have first-hand experience?

As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Are you operating with this adage in mind? Are you delivering a service that makes your customers want to shout about it? Feedback from reviews can be invaluable and in a time when the retail landscape is changing. In fact, it can help increase revenue.

Generate Reviews, Generate Revenue

By generating more reviews and creating local online advocates for your brand, you strengthen your reputation. Potential customers will see those reviews and use them to make purchasing decisions.

Check out this success kit which explains the fundamentals of Online Reputation Management (ORM).