I recently watched an online video of two furniture industry veterans sharing their thoughts and discussing how retail is being impacted by the Internet. I was somewhat struck by their alarmist tone that the Internet is “killing” brick-and-mortar retailing and that traditional home furnishing retailers have forgotten what retail is all about.
I’m not sure they have the right perspective. It’s really customers that are changing traditional retail – and they just happen to be using the Internet to drive that change.
When it comes to big-ticket items like furniture, bedding or appliances, consumers want convenience, choice and good value. Most important, they want to buy from sources they can trust – whether it’s the online retailer or the physical brick-and-mortar store.
For smart retailers who have recognized we’ve entered into a period of the Retail Renaissance, they know how important it is to adapt to meet these changing customer demands.
Related article: Embracing The Retail Renaissance
By implementing and investing in digital capabilities to engage the consumer, smart retailers can build a sustainable, trusting relationship while creating a competitive market advantage.
E-Commerce – Offering products online with the ability to highlight sales promotions allows smart retailers to effectively compete with digital-only retailers. By serving customers with a frictionless, easy-to-use shopping experience, smart retailers can engage their customers more effectively. Unfortunately, a simple “brochure-ware” website simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
In-Store WiFi – Ensuring customers have an easy-connection to in-store WiFi has become “table-stakes” for smart retailers. Mobile shoppers will search and compare products and want to capture images that can be posted for immediate feedback from family and friends.
Electronic Catalogue – By offering self-serve, simple-to-use kiosk displays, customers can enjoy a browsing experience for exploration of product choices (with pricing information) which drives up the likelihood they’ll make a purchase.
Digital Associates – Smart retailers know that equipping their sales associates with tablets enhances the selling experience. Having accurate inventory data and efficient POS processes makes it easier for the associate to complete a sale. (The devices should also be able to do double-duty with product information and training tools to enhance the sales associate’s knowledge.)
Customer Experience – The use of electronic price tags (to maintain up-to-date pricing), access to augmented-reality (for help with room planning), and the tracking of order placement, payment and product delivery (keeping customers apprised each step along the way) gives the smart retailer a significant advantage over the “traditional methods” of doing business.
Digital Services – With easily accessible social media, smart retailers know that Google Reviews (and similar online assessments) cannot be ignored. Customers get an immediate sense of the retailer from both positive and negative experiences of others. Smart retailers inherently understand that exceptional service experiences with their customers is the only way to build repeat and sustainable business.
Related article: Why Retailers Need Omnichannel
Whether it’s with a product protection plan or a home service program, retailers can create returning customers by offering solutions that exceed their customers’ service expectations.
By Brad Geddes
Brad Geddes, President & CEO of ZucoraHome regularly shares insights about the Canadian home furnishings industry, changing consumer needs, and the transformation of ZucoraHome into a smarter living enterprise that leverages technology and professional home services to help families enjoy a better quality of life.