In December, the online e-tailer offered a $15 incentive to consumers when they used the Amazon PriceCheck app for competitive in-store shopping. Retailers and retail organizations were up in arms over the decision, accusing Amazon of preying on small, independent retail stores and using them as showrooms for the e-tail giant.
Many brick-and-mortar retailers, however, are structurally incapable of competing on price against online retailers. There are a few exceptions, but it’s unrealistic for most small retail shops to expect to compete with online retailers on price. Retailers’ success will not be dependent upon how they can compete against the Amazon.coms of the world, but how they can create a service and experience that is impossible to replicate online.
There are three main strategies I believe that retailers can focus on to ensure that they are offering a high-fidelity service–one where the in-store experience is unique, memorable and really does make customers eager to return.
1. Focus on an in-store experience that entertains and educates. Here, the store should focus on how to create an environment that cannot be duplicated online–an environment that is fun for the entire family and where customers can interact with the products and the store brand.
2. Re-imagine the store layout and the inventory. Carrying the correct products and having a clear, effective store layout are probably more important today than they’ve ever been before. Having the ideal product mix–at multiple price points–can help stores shrink their real estate and become more cost effective.
3. Focus on consultative sales with likable associates. The internet has become the ultimate database for product information, pricing and reviews. The store and its associates can fill in the gaps by offering an expert’s opinion–but one that’s genuine and relatable for the customer. The associate that is likable and honest will encourage customers to return with future inquiries.
While some retailers may have to rethink the core principles of their store and business, others will have to focus on what they’ve always done well over the years. Luckily, there are a number of technology solutions to help reinforce these principles. When researching and investing in new point of sale and retail software solutions, retailers should focus on solutions with the following functionality:
- Databases, email marketing and other customer relationship management features;
- Repair, maintenance and service tracking;
- Inventory reporting and analysis tools; and
- Advanced employee management.
Additionally, retailers should be investigating ways to integrate point of sale and inventory management functionality into mobile tablets, like Apple’s iPad. These technology solutions, however, are not an end-all solution to many retailers’ problems today. Rather, these solutions can provide the tools to assist retailers that are dedicated to helping the store become a magical, memorable place once again.
Michael Koploy is an ERP Analyst for Software Advice. He often writes for his company blog on trends in point of sale systems for small business. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .