In 2019, Gartner had released a futuristic study on why the main reason for retail businesses failing has little to do with the emergence of ecommerce-first players. The study stated that the reason for its failure was due to  – ‘poor economic conditions, incorrectly reading market changes, bad timing on execution of strategy, the tendency to ‘run before they can walk’, and lack clarity on the customer proposition.’ This might come as a surprise to many, because for a good period of time, we’ve debated endlessly about the downfall of brick and mortars in the world of ecommerce. 

If we think about it, retail carries a number of advantages that ecommerce doesn’t and it has the capability to replicate or enhance the online-offline experience seamlessly for customers. How retailers can do it and what strategies they can employ are what we will be covering in this blog. 

5 Strategies Retailers Can Employ to Compete with Ecommerce-First Players 

The lines between ecommerce and retail have blurred in the last few years, especially after retailers have also gone omni-channel and built a presence in the offline and online space. Take these statistics for instance. 31% of brands plan to set up or expand their physical retail presence, and 40% of brands say building experiential stores will be their key focus.  

On the consumer side, contrary to popular belief, 81% of Gen Z consumers prefer to shop in stores, because it gives them a break from the digital world.  

These statistics show that there’s a very promising future for retail should they get their business strategy right. With that, let’s look at what retailers can do to stay relevant and remain profitable in the war with ecommerce. 

Create & build a website 

While it is true that Gen Z is looking to shop offline, the fact still remains that many consumers across Gen Z, millennials and older generations prefer to compare products and prices online before purchasing in a retail store. So, it’s important for retailers to begin their online journey by building a website and listing their products there. In fact, one of the advantages of having a website is that it’s open 24/7 for customers to place orders, and navigating and searching for products is a seamless experience. 

Having said that, retailers must also keep in mind that their physical store experience should also be designed in a way that it’s easy for customers to find what they are looking for, complete the transaction effortlessly, and leave with a great store experience. 

Go omnichannel  

As an extension to the earlier point, going online is not just about building a website, but it is about going omnichannel and delivering a seamless experience across web, social and mobile platforms.  

Today, you can’t entirely predict where your customers are present. They may be browsing your products on your website, in-store, on a mobile app or on a social network.  

If you’re present where your customers are, you establish better brand recall, and make it easy for customers to make a purchase no matter where they are. 

Create a seamless experience for customers across multiple platforms 

Being omnichannel is also about being ready to deliver customer service on all these channels. Let’s say a customer purchased a product on your website, and would like to exchange the product in your nearest outlet. Your brand should be able to provide that service so that they don’t have to think twice about the purchase or return process. Similarly, especially post Covid, customers have become comfortable with shop and collect, wherein they purchase the product online and collect it on the curbside. 

A Merit expert says, “A seamless experience also works the other way around. You can have virtual shopping assistants on your website, to help customers decide what they want, or you can make their in-store visit more experiential by using AI and virtual technologies to help them touch, feel and try the product before they purchase it. For example, IKEA uses AR technology to help customers see how the furniture will look in their home before they purchase it.” 

Incorporate data into decision making 

We have written extensively about the need to implement data harvesting and retail analytics into brick and mortar stores. Building a data-centric retail business comes with a ton of advantages; it helps you forecast and plan your inventory better, establish better relationships with your suppliers by bringing transparency into stock requirements and customer feedback on stocks, plan retail expansions better, and deliver a great customer experience.  

In the digital world, data-driven decision making will help retailers build a more engaging, relevant and optimal website and landing pages, run personalised, targeted marketing campaigns, and ‘know’ what the customer wants.  

On a larger scale, data-centric retailers tend to save costs, optimise resource allocation, and build more customer-driven futuristic businesses. 

Train your workforce to be on their digital toes 

Equip your staff with skills to analyse visual charts and dashboards and plan inventory and stocks online and offline, be in the know about what customers are looking for and make it available across all channels, and be ready to cater to customer needs whether they have purchased with your brand in-store, online on social, or mobile. 

Retailers already have an edge over ecommerce players 

Today, ecommerce players are trying to set up pop-up or experiential stores for their customers to touch and feel a product before they purchase it. So, if you think about it, the lines between ecommerce and retail are blurring, and succeeding in this space is really about price, experience and support that you deliver at the end of the day. 

Merit’s Expertise in Retail Data and Intelligence   

Our state-of-the-art retail data harvesting engine collects raw data and provides actionable insights; 

  • Three to four times faster than standard scrapers   
  • At lower cost   
  • With Increased accuracy (up to 30% compared to standard scrapers) 

Our powerful, new scraper engine can gather massive data sets from multiple sites and geographies in real-time so you can stay informed on customer behaviours and market trends. 

Merit’s eCommerce and retail data engine provides a high degree of confidence in insights generated from analytics – thanks to confidence in the data quality and access to enriched data. 

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