5 ways to optimise bricks & mortar retail

Stores are not dead and online shopping is not the enemy of a bricks & mortar retailer. We meet very few people these days who would disagree with that statement - with ‘traditional’ retailers upping their game online and retailers creating physical presence via collaborations and pop-ups, it seems that both channels will continue to play an important role for retail.

And yet, with footfall under pressure and many retailers facing fixed costs for their store estates, physical stores inevitably present a commercial challenge – there is a need to in maximise the opportunity that every single pair of feet & eyes in-store presents.

Aside from forensic location-planning, which is clearly vital, here are 5 things that retailers can do to make more of their store estate.

1.Do both big & small well – but differently

There will continue to be a need for both big destination stores and small formats, but the best of both will respond to their different consumer needs and will not just be scaled up or down versions of the same store

Flagships / larger formats should be the ultimate showroom: an immersive, multi-sensory experience of your brand that only a physical space can deliver, and which draws a crowd like a magnet

  • We can learn from: Oasis’s Tottenham Court Road flapship, which combines a nail bar and café to encourage dwell time

As we continue to live hectic lives, convenient, smaller formats will continue to play a role, and the best executions will both wholeheartedly address the primary need of their catchment and connect with their local communities

We can learn from:

  • Sainsbury’s in Wandsworth, celebrating the local area

  • Ikea’s new small format Order and Collection Points

2.Cultivate passion, expertise and personal service

Whilst developments in AI will continue to improve the experience of automated service online, consumers still gravitate towards human interactions. Investing in finding and retaining passionate staff, who act as true brand ambassadors is a sure-fire way to boost to conversion, as enthusiasm is contagious.

And offering specialist expertise can help make your store a destination for problem-solving, education and guidance.

We can learn from:

  • Lush, whose people exude passion about their products

  • John Lewis’s category experts are in high demand

  • Hobbs’ free personal shopping service

Similarly, while digital channels are best for delivering personalised offers and communications, but we still see a place for the ‘personal’ touch. Every customer that steps foot in the store should feel welcome, valued and have their individual needs met – what better way to encourage repeat visits and positive word of mouth.

  • We can learn from: Sears, who equip their employees with data to have personal interactions with customers, according to Rockpool research

​3.Play to impulse

The behavioural sciences paint a convincing picture about how most of our decisions are fast, automatic and instinctive, avoiding more difficult, rational thinking.

Retailers must therefore make their customer experience effortless and simple. And the best will also understand and play to the mental short-cuts customers employ, for example anchoring prices, using visual priming to draw customers to specific ranges, creating a call to action with scarcity tactics or using social proof to tap into our ‘follow-the-herd’ mentality.

We can learn from:

  • Ocado’s Reserved slot feature – making online grocery shopping more automatic and hassle-free

  • H&M’s effective use of anchoring with low price points

4.Encourage product involvement

Greater product involvement can help close the sale. Trying garments on and tasting food are well-tried tricks – but there’s also evidence that simply touching something increases the likelihood of buying it (the Endowment Effect in action!).

Virtual Ownership is another effect in which we start valuing something once we can imagine owning it – retailers can play to these tendencies by creating tactile, interactive displays and encouraging trial and play as much as possible.

We can learn from:

  • The lingerie sector: Boux Avenue’s bedroom-like displays and Victoria Secrets’s sensual changing rooms encourage customers to imagine owning and wearing the products.

  • Sephora’s social media strategy, which heavily uses tutorials to immerse customer in the product range

5.Fluidify the online / offline transition