The Smart Shop Role Of Retail Stores In The Digital Era!

By Huzefa Merchant, Founder, Insync Shop Fittings

Huzefa Merchant, Founder, Insync Shop FittingsAt a click; that’s the new golden rule, where every retailer or marketer is trying to bring every transaction to a single click. This is the defining change of the Digital era. While IT technology and modular construction techniques, took retail global by creating new and efficient ways of managing retail stores across borders, the age of e-commerce is all geared up to take retail into every bedroom. Today, one can make a purchase, without stepping out of their bed, thanks to the online retail portals.

The big question is ‘What is the role of Brick and Mortar stores in this Digital era?’

The key to success is in the integration of both offline and online retail, in complementing each other rather than competing, both online and Brick and Mortar stores have their own virtues and challenges, the balance of both is perhaps inevitable. Online platforms are potent at creating cost effective market penetration and give consumers a convenience of shopping like never before, resulting in higher sales at lower costs. But in the same breath we also have to admit that they take away the fun of shopping.

Shopping on your phone is quite a different experience from the experience of stepping into a mall, where every window is sending out subliminal message, vying for your attention. On stepping in a barrage of sensory stimuli surround you, from the warm lights to the soft aroma and a friendly ‘How can I help you, Ma’am?’ The feel of the fabric on your finger tips to the racing heartbeat when you step out to show him that cocktail dress, the ‘you look ravishing’ that just jumps out his mouth when you put on that diamond chocker. These emotions are generally more powerful decision influencers, than price or sales push. As any anthropologist would testify, human beings respond to emotional stimuli more than anything. So the appreciation of a friend or loved one sometimes becomes more joyous than the ownership of the merchandise bought.

“Online platforms are potent at creating cost effective market penetration and give consumers a convenience of shopping”

The role of a Smart Shop would be more, customer relations and brand communication as compared to sales driving, these shops, would act more as experience centers and not sales platforms. So clearly the focus would shift more towards product presentation and less on SKU per Sq. ft. Communication of the brand identity and product differentiation would be the key objective, from the stores design to fixtures and personal all engaged in doing just that.

Smart Shop should look more like museum or art galleries, where the concentration is more on giving personalized attention and enhancing the experience. Providing product knowledge through creative story telling should replace antiquated sales techniques. Store designs, shop fits and lighting have become ever so important to create seamless environments and the training of store staff in customer relations will make and break brands. Retail stores have got to employ Omni Channel technology and Digital Signage’s to keep a sense of fluidity and freshness.

The bulky fixed furniture and packed isles have got to give way to light and adaptable fixtures that are capable of quick and easy changeover of roles. They should allow seamless integration of digital signage’s and technology to enable sensory stimuli along with the capability of integrating Omni channel strategies into the fixtures themselves. Sensory stimuli are powerful mediums for creating brand differentiation, from the look of the store to way it smells and how it communicates should be the first priority of the marketers, quality of the merchandise and merchandising should take preference over the number of SKU per sq.ft.

It is paramount that the customer feels pampered, since he’s taken that extra effort to walk into your store. Since, he’s here to see your latest collection, before it hits the online platforms. Smart retailers would indeed come up with new and compelling lures for consumers to step into their stores and then keep them there.

The sales influencer has changed to exclusivity and the feel good factor creating brand connect would be the free home delivery and cash on delivery provided by that store. In this case the retailer would be able to create a better value for his in store products as compared to his online catalogue, yet by providing a deliver facility keep a smaller inventory at the store and ship directly to customers who would prefer such a thing. Hence, this adds value to a customer while reducing his inventory carrying cost and double shipping cost on such products.

The Brick and Mortar stores can provide a shopping experience and joy that online retailing can’t and since most of us spend highly on satisfying our emotions, the lure of walking into a store would still be a very relevant feeling, it’s on marketers how they leverage it.

We have been working closely with retailers and retail and designers to facilitate empowering physical retail with digital efficiencies while enhancing the excitement of shopping in the Brick & Mortar stores through constant innovation in shop fitting technology that can seamlessly combine the two at the real point of sale, the rack.

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