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Much has already been written about how the physical store can (or must) ensure its continued existence in the coming years. But what are the most important points of attention right now? We spoke with retail expert Marian Bekkers from consulting agency Kooplust about 4 four agenda items for the store of the future.
Just set up a multi-channel strategy and you’re ready for the future? According to Marian Bekkers, that’s not enough. The store of the future
- has to stand out,
- offer convenience to customers,
- have enthusiastic and expert employees out on the shop floor,
- and be more than just a point of sale.
Do you think that stores right now aren’t doing enough to distinguish themselves?
Absolutely. What’s really the difference these days between one store and another? They all promise the biggest and latest assortment, the best offers and independent advice. But doing more or less what your competitor does is no longer sufficient. Choose what you excel in, and make sure it enables you to stick out head and shoulders above the rest.
And according to you, giving good advice isn’t enough?
Don´t get me wrong: good service is important. But that has become a sort of basic requirement. Expectations about service and the knowledge of store employees have risen in recent years. Consumers are very well aware that they have all kinds of other choices at their disposal if a store’s performance is substandard. So investing in the knowledge of employees is another important point. Because why go to a brick and mortar store if you find better information online? The consumer expects an expert on the shop floor. Someone who, in addition, takes great pleasure in the profession and who’s infectiously enthusiastic. There´s still a lot of work to be done for many stores in that area.
In your conception, how can stores offer more convenience? And why is that important?
Everyone lives under huge pressure these days, and developments are taking place very quickly. So many people appreciate a little help: a bit of convenience that saves time – or prevents frustration. There’s a lot that stores can do on this level: workshops where customers learn how to use a product, or videos which show customers – at any time that’s convenient for them – how you maintain a product or solve problems. And don´t forget the shop floor! A presentation with the 5 five best-selling articles would help many customers choose from the wide range of options.
Consumers also compare more and use online and offline channels indifferently. Offer customers that convenience as well! For example, ensure a good WiFi connection so that customers can use the online channel in the store. And don´t be afraid that you´ll make fewer sales as a result: research demonstrates precisely that, on average, consumers who use their mobile phone in the store spend 2.2 times more on that shop floor. Make finding information easy, also between one store and another. Because you don´t want to let the customer walk out the door simply because your store doesn’t have an item and you don’t know which sister branch might still have it in stock.
Does the telecom provider have an important role here?
The telecom provider certainly plays a role in this. The consumer seeks convenience and is accustomed to having information at his or her immediate disposal. The ability to give that customer information, also on the brick and mortar shop floor, is crucial. Think for example of stock information from different branches or access to the online channel. The telecom provider is an important partner for the store to offer this service to a consumer.
Looking further ahead, this role of the telecom provider will probably only continue to grow. In the United States, for example, there are telecom providers that offer a data subscription for drones. Control of the drone then runs via 4G, which makes long-distance flights possible and thus offers opportunities for package delivery by retailers. And don´t forget the Internet of Things: everything we use is connected to the internet. In the future at home you will simply say out loud that you need new detergent, or you press a button on the washing machine... and voilà, your order goes directly to the store. In short: everything is being digitised, and the telecom provider plays a major role in facilitating this.
Finally, how does a store develop into more than a point of sale?
Just compare it with a café. You buy a drink there, but that´s not the main reason you go to a café. You come there to meet like-minded people, to relax. The product is thus subordinated to the experience, and that should also be the case in the store. The first step to working on that is to think about your identity. How do you distinguish yourself, and which target group do you want to attract? Is it the gadget freak? The businesswoman? The over 50 group? Every target group has its own needs. The second step is to reflect on how to offer the best possible experience to this one target group. What sort of look, communicative tone, services or products fit with this? Create a world in which this identity permeates everything, and you´ll quickly have a group of loyal fans, who no longer see you as a place-to-buy, but as a place-to-be.
So, four points that every retailer today can already get a start on. As Bekkers says: dare to choose and put your client first, because with these characteristics even the brick and mortar store has a bright future ahead of it.