Mo Headshot BlogHere are several tips and tricks to reveal how your brand can enhance its digital presence in measurable ways to bring ready-to-buy consumers to your stores. By Mohannad El-Barachi

 

People are saying retail is in "crisis." Fear-mongering headlines comparing the state of retail to the crash 0f 2007-2008 are popping up left, right and center, creating a scary narrative for retailers. Instead of fear, we should be using the changes to the retail space to make us think critically about how digital is forcing the tried-and-true brick-and-mortar world to change. Labelling the transformation as a "death" or "crisis" is not only incorrect, it's counter-productive.

Retail leaders need to connect their digital strategy to their physical presence, rather than viewing them as two separate entities. The development of digital technologies made to improve the consumer experience (and your data) isn't slowing down. The vast changes in the retail space are ultimately positive and can actually improve the success of your brick-and-mortar if you let it.

Ask yourself this question right now, and answer it honestly, with specific examples: am I doing everything I could be to ensure I'm using digital channels to draw people in-store? Then extend this thinking by asking: what can I do to improve foot-traffic, and keep people coming back?

Here's a handful of ways to get ahead of the "crisis" and improve your online-to-offline game now.

Prepare Your Site Accordingly

Voice search is about to explode. Home systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are making searching even more seamless than what the mobile world has allowed. Optimize for voice search by building your content to reflect natural speech patterns and simple language to make it easy for virtual assistants to pick up your data and serve it to the consumer who's looking. Long-tail keywords will become more prevalent as short, quippy searches start to decline. You will need to go beyond "best coffee shop" copy and AdWords bidding now, and think more complexly about how consumers will try to find your local business. Prepare for searches like this: "Alexa, find me a coffee shop in Newport with free Wi-Fi that's child-friendly." And eventually, you will be able to proactively prepare for holidays and special occasions with Memorial Day sales ready to share, and Father's Day restaurant and gift suggestions at the ready.

Always make sure that your local landing pages use structured data markup to make it easy for Alexa and Google Home to pick up your local data and deliver it to searchers.

Show Up for Searchers

I'm not talking about general SEO here. I'm talking about niche, ROI-friendly local marketing. In local marketing, the aim is to bring nearby consumers into your store. Micro-moments are searches conducted by consumers that turn into a conversion within the next 24 hours. To tap into this market you need to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Understand your demographic and know their habits. For millennials, think of social selling on Instagram and appealing to local crowds with visuals. Gen-X will be enticed by a branded Geofilter on Snapchat. Think in this pattern: your target demographic, their preferred platform, and the content that will speak to them.

It goes without saying that no matter where you decide to optimize your directory presence - it's not about splattering your information across directories and calling it a day. The 'set it and forget it' model has been outgrown. Stand out where it really matters by hand-picking directories rich with conversion potential, then optimize. In short, make your business shine where it's really important.

Generate Insights for Targeted Campaigning

Good decisions are made with good insights. Showing up for searchers is vital but all that work you did to get listed on key directories is only worthwhile when you know who's behind those searches. Whether you make your bet on retargeting campaigns, coupons or in-store offers catering to a particular demographic in a particular location, local insights give you the opportunity for a tailor-made approach to local. If you have 300+ stores, chances are you have different needs in different cities. With more consumer data made available every day, highly targeted marketing is becoming an expectation to consumers and for you - the most important piece of the online-to-offline equation. Know who's looking for your store online, make decisions about what products they want, and market to them in ways that encourages them to come to your stores. It's as simple as that.

The evolution of big data is enabling marketers to get more sophisticated insights on consumer buying behavior. I'll always advocate for generating as many analytics about your consumers as possible, but if you're behind on this, start with the basics. Data generated from your local listings can tell you who's looking for your business, when they're looking, their demographic, and how they convert. If a spike in listings traffic correlates to a lift in foot traffic, you've just painted yourself a broad overview of how your listings are fueling ROI from your local marketing.

'Hey, how did we do today?'

Hey, how did we do today? Retailers know the importance of building a rapport with a customer to create a lifelong brand ambassador. While you might not be seeing your consumers face-to-face as often, it's important to build this relationship online to win offline. Over three quarters of consumers seriously consider online reviews before they make a purchase, so having a serious review presence is key for your online reputation. Respond and thank them for your feedback and show you attempt to improve in the future. Even more, if a customer leaves a great review, thank them for their time. Reviews can help boost your local SEO and showing you're engaged with your clientele gives potential shoppers all the more reason to come check you out for themselves.

Retail isn't dying. It's forcing businesses to engage with online audiences in a new way, and have their digital presence completely in order to ensure they're easily found when a shopper is looking for an immediate need. A key pillar of technology is about making our lives more connected and convenient. So meet your customers and the digital world halfway by connecting the dots between your brick-and-mortar and online presence.

Mohannad El-Barachi is General Manager of SweetIQ.

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BSLGBroad Street Licensing Group’s licensing agreement expands the brand’s retail reach to the Mexican marketplace. 

Broad Street Licensing Group, exclusive agent for the Tony Roma Restaurant brand, has brokered a deal with one of Mexico’s leading producers of pork products, MEAT Industria en Alimentos SA de CV (MEAT Mexico).

This agreement follows BSLG’s announcements of recent food licensing deals made for the brand in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the first ever licensing deals for the Tony Roma’s brand outside of the USA. This newest deal will bring Tony Roma’s world-famous ribs and BBQ pork products to the Mexican retail channel at top grocery stores across the country.

“We could not be more excited to build our retail presence with a company like MEAT Mexico, a highly revered trailblazer in the Mexican retail market,” Stephen K. Judge, president and CEO of Romacorp Inc., the parent company of the Tony Roma’s brand, said in a release. “Tony Roma’s has experienced strong growth this year through a series of important retail licensing agreements, as well as new restaurant development and franchise agreements in the U.S. and key markets around the world. This new licensing deal reinforces the strength of the Tony Roma’s brand and the trust consumers have in our world-famous products.”

JACHSLOUNGEHOUSE, a division of Bentex Group, will develop men’s and women’s underwear, robes and slippers. 

JACHS New York has partnered with LOUNGEHOUSE, a division of Bentex Group, to develop a collection of underwear, robes and slippers under the brands JACHS NY, JACHS Girlfriend and The Original JACHS Manufacturing Co., featuring the brand’s designs.

Merchant Factors, JACHS’ exclusive licensing agent, brokered the deal marking the brand’s expansion into licensing, which will be distributed to department and specialty stores across North America, as well as online retailers. The collection will hit retail shelves Holiday 2017.

“We are thrilled to have found such a creative and hardworking partner in LOUNGEHOUSE, JACHS New York President and CEO Hayati Banastey said in a release. “We’re very encouraged by the team they’ve built and their knowledge of the industry.”

VA LicensingV&A took home the LIMA International Licensing award during the 2017 Licensing Expo.

For the third time, the Victoria and Albert Museum have been voted Best Art and Design Brand in the International Licensing Awards.

Announced last week at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, the 2017 LIMA International Licensing Awards recognizes outstanding performance by a brand in the global licensing marketplace throughout the previous year.

As one of the world’s leading museums of art and design, the V&A’s diverse collections continue to inspire excellence in design and drive and excite the next wave of designers, retailers and manufacturers. Its licensing categories include homeware, apparel, jewelry, accessories, stationery, fabric and gifts from 75 licensees worldwide in the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, China and South Korea.

ThinkstockPhotos 532775917Using IoT, endless aisle strategies and other solutions will be critical in helping traditional retailers level the playing field with their digital-native competitors. By Gary Gilmer

The retailers that are the best at innovation will be the ones that dont just survive, but thrive.

The retail landscape is ever changing. From the old country store, to mail order catalogs, to big box stores, the retailers that succeed are those that never stop innovating. The most recent shift has been the emergence and dominance of online retailers. Those that werent able to evolve are now paying the price.

To thrive, retailers will need to innovate - not just online, but on their own turf. Amazon already opened brick and mortar bookstores and is now planning to open other stores for (heavy) items such as furniture and appliances. Offline-native companies' experience and organization will give them real advantages over digital-native newcomers, but to keep the pace they will need to do more.

Two fundamental areas for reinvention are the customer experience and insight into shopper behavior, via interactive kiosks that enable endless aisle strategies and in-store data collection and analytics tools, respectively.

Endless aisle strategies

The endless aisle traditionally offers items that are not currently in stock. But it also could help retailers make the most of limited physical space and managing inventory effectively. Interactive kiosks, for example, enable retailers to offer merchandise not available on site, while also giving customers the same ease and variety of options as online shopping. At the same time, retailers can still leverage the tangible assets that a website never could.

Endless aisle interactive kiosks could even change what tomorrows brick and mortar looks like. If retailers were freed from the constraints of maintaining physical inventories on-site, while still offering a wide variety of goods, they could open smaller, low-overhead storefronts that combine the best of both online and offline worlds in new ways.

IoT Meets Actionable Data

Perhaps more important are strategies to gain insight to make better decisions. Traditional ways of gathering data, such as loyalty programs, have limitations. And UPC codes dont provide data on why sales drop or jump beyond anecdotal evidence such as an item being on sale. Newer methodologies like mobile apps require shoppers to opt in, which can be problematic.

What if there was a way to use software and sensors to collect in-store data to provide insights on the way consumers shop? Thats the idea behind connected products. By using anonymized data collected at the point of decision, sellers are able to determine why a products sales were higher or lower in a given time period. They can tell what in-store marketing is effective, when its effective, what demographic groups its effective with, and even how many sales are being lost due to a lack of inventory.

This is actionable data that can change how a seller engages with shoppers and gets its products to market. Using technology at point of sale will empower sellers to make better decisions, sell more products, and decrease waste.

By embracing technologies that collect and analyze in-store data, sellers can glean valuable insights into shoppers' habits. The data can then be used to personalize what drives greater engagement at the point of decision, whether thats online or brick and mortar.

For example, Mondelez International, a CPG company with brands as Nabisco, Trident, and Cadbury, sought a way to track and engage shoppers during the purchase decision journey, with the goals of improving in-store sales and better understanding the journey from attraction to purchase.

To move past these challenges, Mondelez engaged a technology consulting firm to craft a custom solution - a "smart shelf." This collects rich data about which products are performing well, as well as why products are selling. The shelf also gives insight into a shoppers journey when purchasing an item and, if the sale did not take place, shows where a disconnect happened. Mondelez now can aggregate and analyze this information for itself and its store partners to fix any disconnect by engaging with shoppers to encourage the purchase.

Modernizing Operations to Drive Growth

Its not enough to get your feet wet with digital transformation because the organization that doesnt boldly reinvent itself may not be here tomorrow. For retailers, this means innovating the shopper experience and gaining more insight while doing so. Endless aisle and data gathering at point of sale are two new ways to get there.

Gary Gilmer is a partner at Clarity Consulting, a craft technology company that creates custom solutions to solve complex business problems. Gilmer can be reached at iot@claritycon.com.

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