Brick and mortar retail have a public relations problem. Yep, according to the word on the street (yes, Wall Street) and recent headlines, traditional retail is on its last leg.

The headlines recounting record-level store closings, falling traffic, and plummeting sales generally spell doom for the retail industry. But, let’s drop a truth bomb — the data and the facts consistently show us a different picture. Physical retail is still growing. National Retail Federation data shows a net increase in store openings of over 4,000 in 2017. In fact, for each company closing a store, 2.7 companies are opening stores. Retail sales were up 4% overall for the retail industry in 2016 which doesn’t really support the “retail apocalypse” theory spinning out there.

We can all agree that retail is evolving, but physical retail is not going away. Due to new technologies, physical retail is being forced to rethink their business approach, quickly! According to eMarketer, $3.4 trillion is devoted to retail sales every year with just $400 billion spent online. The rest still takes place in physical stores.

New retail options that understand the new marketplace and are reimaging the rules are springing up and thriving on the challenge. Retailers, who understand the power of the shopping experience, are gaining ground by leveraging their understanding of what consumers want. 

As with all industries, retail has its strong players and those about to take the bench. But, retailers like all seem to be reinventing the playbook. It’s the circle of retail life.

Here are the top 3 ways brick and mortar can stay relevant.

Give them what they want.

The Spice Girls said it best when they sang, “Yo, I’ll tell you what I want what I really, really want.” If only every customer would follow their lead. Today’s shopper seems to want an experience, a “wow,” and a reason to profess their undying love and loyalty to “their” brand on any number of social channels. They shop seeking value and convenience, of course. But they’re also on a quest for a connection and meaningful brand engagement. If it sounds a bit like dating, well, it is. You are now courting your customer and the old-fashioned in-store experience just won’t satisfy them anymore. Retail must up their game.

Retailers who get the power of the shopping experience are thriving by leveraging their understanding of what a customer wants. Successful retailers have let go of thinking that a store is just a mechanism to deliver goods from buyer to seller. Retail is not about the transaction. It’s the social activity of physically discovering and appreciating products. This is hard to replicate during an online experience. It is also highly personal, which brings us to the next point.

Get to know them, really well.

Once a personal connection is made with a customer, they usually stick with their favorite brands. Retailers, who adopt data-driven strategies to compete with online retailers using convenience and personalization as triggers, are in it to win it. One-to-one marketing is key. Today’s shopper wants their favorite retailers to tailor promotions and communications to their individual purchasing habits. In fact, according to a study from Infosys, 86% of consumers and 96% of retailers say personalization has at least some impact on the purchasing decision. according to a study from Infosys. The study also found that almost one-third of consumers want more personalization in their shopping experiences.

Personalization can encompass an extensive list of online and offline media, including: website optimization, segmentation, email marketing, merchandising and push notifications. Whether the initial goal is to drive conversion rates or simply raise awareness of a product release or retail event, personalized messaging ultimately influences individual consumers purchasing habits.

Don’t make them work for it. Make it easy.

Understanding customers and their needs are critical whether the interaction is online, offline, or a mix of the two. But, it’s equally important to make potential transactions seamless. These personalized offers drive traffic and make it easy for customers to shop.

Mobile wallets are an easy way for retailers to create personalized offers to customers through push notifications alerts. This technology captures creating a shopping experience that is both personalized and convenient. It also adds value to loyalty programs that get a boost from being incorporated into promotional campaigns that drive traffic.

While many “experts” have heralded certain death for brick and mortar retail, most pundits understand that a resurrection is underway. It’s exciting to see the game-changing refresh taking place in the retail industry for those brands willing to evolve.

Brick and mortar may be the current underdog, but with a simple reimagining, they are definitely creating opportunities for change that might have seemed “unthinkable” before.

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