Throughout 2017 there has been much discussion about the future of retailing, with the crystal balls of some showing a future without stores and a consumer base using their digital devices to buy what they need from the comfort of their living rooms.
The fact is that while some long-standing bastions of American retail struggled during the past 12 months, their individual challenges were more about respective internal operations than the changing habits of today’s shopper.
As typically happens, when a business segment is infiltrated by a disruptive force, panic ensues. The combination of Amazon.com, the proliferation of digital devices and the growth of e-commerce as a whole has combined to disrupt traditional retailing. Few, if any, would argue that point.
But while technology has changed retail, and will continue doing so going forward, it’s important that brick-and-mortar stores not lose sight of the basics.
That said, here’s my back-to-basics wish list for retailers in 2018:
- Housekeeping (Part I): There’s no reason a customer should walk into a store just after opening and be met with store personnel placing inventory on shelves or find aisles lined with empty shopping carts. This gives shoppers the feeling that while the doors are open the store is not nearly ready to serve their needs. A bad shopping experience to say the least.
- Housekeeping (Part II): During store hours, shoppers buy stuff, touch stuff and can be a bit messy (or very messy). Having departments adequately staffed to keep each part of the store looking good and shelves properly stocked is basic customer service and provides a better experience.
- How much is this? Make sure items on store shelves have the correct prices and that last week’s sale tags are gone. Doing this eliminates a major point of confusion for shoppers and it just may keep people from checking their mobile phones and buying the same item from you-know-who.
- Take my money. One of the bigger shopping annoyances in life is a slow-moving checkout line. Customers have walked the aisles, found what they wanted and now they can’t give a retailer their money. If all of a given store’s registers aren’t humming during those busy periods, something is wrong.
So while retailers are focused on improving the technology of their many stores, they should also incorporate some old-school techniques. Working together, they may just provide an enhanced shopping experience and keep customers from going elsewhere.