With 60 permanent stores across the UK and 30 additional pop-ups opening in the lead up to Christmas, Menkind CEO Paul Kraftman reveals how physical retail can thrive in the era of online shopping
There’s no denying online retail is still growing across various industries, but with research showing about 80% of retail is still happening in physical stores, the era of bricks-and-mortar is far from over. Contrary to predictions announcing the death of high-street retail and the reign of e-commerce giants, customers are still looking for a shopping experience they can’t always find online. If physical retailers are prepared to match their expectations, sales numbers will follow suit.
Here I’ll discuss some of the key ways today’s physical retailers can stay relevant in a digitised market, and even maintain an edge over e-commerce:
Don’t fight change, embrace it
If there is one thing the rise of online has impacted dramatically, that would be the way trends are formed. Everything moves faster nowadays, information is accessible at our fingertips and trends are increasingly harder to predict. Customer buying behaviour reflects this fast-paced environment and the best way a business can cope with this evolving market is to respond quickly. Being agile and constantly refreshing your proposition is key in keeping up with customer demand. Traditionally, retailers such as department stores plan their Christmas selection a year in advance, a process which unsurprisingly, makes it almost impossible to compete in today’s market. Businesses have to adapt and be able to bring products to market as rapidly as the trends change.
Focus on the people and the numbers will come
It may sound obvious but keeping your team and wider staff engaged is essential. Employees value a business that cares about its people and, especially in retail, a people centric company will motivate employees to offer great customer service in return. Pay attention to what people want and implement employee benefits strategies that reflect this. There are various ways in which a business can invest in people’s happiness, from offering business perks, bonus schemes, to organising internal sales competitions or involving employees in a rebranding process, which will ensure they have a say in key business decisions. Quite often, it’s the small things that make a big difference.
The supply chain is key
To keep up with changes in the e-commerce space, companies must adapt to shorter supply chains, a vital element in ensuring faster delivery and greater adaptability to ever-changing customer demands. If you want to offer that speed in responding to trends and have the ability to change your proposition regularly, you need to be operationally sound as a business. The best strategies in the world will fall apart if you can’t deliver what you’ve promised customers.
Maintain a great degree of flexibility
To be able to react to rapid change, businesses need to ensure they benefit from a great level of flexibility throughout their operations. As a physical business, take on flexible leases for your stores; this will give you the freedom to adapt to drastic changes in the market and meet audience demands more easily. In specific sectors like gifting retail, the pop-up stores model can prove a very successful strategy in keeping up with sales seasonality. At Menkind we’ve seen positive customer response to seasonal stores in recent years, and we’re continuing to expand these plans in the lead-up to Christmas.
Synch up your online and offline efforts
A common misconception worth addressing here is the fact that a successful online operation replaces offline entirely. On the contrary, a recurrent pattern I’ve experienced in recent years is the presence of physical stores actually bolstering online sales. Having a physical footprint in a particular region, say a store in a popular shopping centre, works in favour of raising brand awareness and ultimately drives online sales. This works both ways, as our figures show that up to 30% of online sales at Menkind are click and collect, with customers picking up the products in store; this is a great opportunity to drive store traffic and upsell. Only by offering an integrated experience and giving customers the opportunity to buy in multiple ways you increase your chances to meet their demands.