5 Ways That Retailers Need To Go Digital
September 27, 2013
•IADT General, Retail Merchandise Management
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Retail merchandise managers need to know exactly what customers are doing in their store. Are the customers shopping for a specific item or just browsing? Are they loyal customers or first-time visitors? Do they enjoy the layout and atmosphere of the store or are they uncomfortable in some way?
Knowing who your audience is and what they want is, of course, the key to successful retail. But monitoring customer behavior and store sales aren’t the only ways to learn about customers. Retail merchandise managers also have to consider how customers interact with their store online. That’s why it’s crucial to build a store’s online presence.
Why a Website isn’t Enough in Retail
Creating a website is a no-brainer to today’s retailers. At the very least, customers can navigate to a store’s website to find its contact information and address. On the other hand, a full-fledged e-commerce website can provide customers with detailed product information and allow customers to make online purchases. That means they don’t have to visit the store at all.
So what kind of website does a retail merchandise manager? Allowing customers to make purchases online is great, but it’s not necessary, especially for small retailers who don’t have the personnel or budget to build and maintain an e-commerce site. A solid website will simply make it easy to find answers to their questions and to ask questions if they can’t find answers.
But a website alone isn’t enough to engage a digital audience. Here are some things that retailers can do to practice retail merchandising online.
- Build a social media presence. Creating profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites allows stores to attract and engage customers. Merchandisers need to update these profiles frequently to start a conversation with shoppers, helping them get familiar with the company’s mission and brand. This can help build a sense of loyalty and get customers interested in returning to the store. It can also provide valuable insights into the customer base. “The wealth of information about consumer shopping behavior in social networks is untapped gold for retailers,” says Scott Welty in “Retail 2020: Seven Trends Impacting Brick & Mortar Retailers.” “By using the right analytics tools, retailers can effectively mine this data to gain insights into what consumers want to buy and channel these insights into more effective merchandising plans.”
- Lead an email campaign. Some customers will give retailers their email addresses, creating another avenue for engagement. Sending a couple of promotional emails each month to announce sales, events or other news is a great way to turn casual buyers into brand advocates.
- Offer SMS messaging. Like keeping in touch with customers via email, offering to send updates via text message is another way to maintain customer interest.
- Go mobile. Mobile versions of websites are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and now responsive design is the new best practice. Responsive design means that the elements of a web page will rearrange to fit the size of the screen you view it from, making it much more accessible for smartphone and tablet users. This is an effective merchandising move because it prevents customers from having to zoom in and out to browse your products.
- Promote offers and coupons. A coupon can attract new customers, broadening the audience while satisfying repeat buyers. Merchandise managers who set prices should weigh the pros and cons of offering deals, remembering that a great offer is the key ingredient in a successful advertisement. Coupons and offers can be shared through basically every channel: on a website, via SMS or email, or on Facebook and Twitter. Make your coupons even better by making them accessible to mobile users. As Jocelyn Smith, CEO and Founder of the agency infinite says, “There are three things consumers love: convenience, bargains, and new stuff. Mobile coupons combine all three into one.” Give customers what they love and watch the relationship grow.
Why is engaging customers in the digital world so important? Because it builds a retailer’s relationship with them when they’re not in the store. When they return, they’ll be more receptive to a merchandise manager’s carefully crafted product displays since the brand will be more familiar. If this type of business interests you, see if a path in the retail merchandise management industry is right for you.