In today’s increasingly online world, maintaining a brick-and-mortar storefront may feel redundant — or even like an unnecessary liability.
But as popular as online shopping has become, 43% of customers say they still most frequently shop in person, according to 2021 data from the Delighted by Qualtrics platform. In addition, the study suggests that more customers are moving toward an “omnichannel” retail experience, in which they can switch with ease between using an app, ordering through a web browser, and showing up in person.
All of which is to say: there are definitely benefits to having a physical storefront, or a “brick-and-mortar” location, as part of your brand.
Here’s how to utilize your brick-and-mortar store in a way that’ll bring forth more success than just relying on the standard combination of websites and social media apps. You can try a multipronged approach.
1. Hold special in-store shopping events and discounts.
If there’s one thing people love even more than shopping, it’s saving money. Case in point: according to one study, some 88% of survey respondents said they’d used coupons while they shopped in 2020.
With a brick-and-mortar store, though, you don’t even have to go through the trouble of creating physical or digital coupons (although you could certainly also layer in that tactic). Simply set up special shopping events or discounts that customers can only take part in when they show up in person.
For instance, some retailers regularly hold “Senior Day” events, wherein shoppers over the age of 55 get special discounts; some might offer incentives for veterans and their families on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other related holidays. You can also go rogue and create an incentivized shopping event of your very own: one ice cream shop in St. Augustine, Florida offers half-off cones when it’s raining. Have fun with it!
2. Consider in-store training and classes.
Do you sell products or services that involve a little bit of a learning curve — or that could easily lend themselves to attractive demonstrations?
For example, if you’re selling kitchen wares, like knives and other food-prep items, an in-store cooking class could help customers learn both how to properly use the items and to craft a brand-new, delicious dish once they get home. Selling sporting goods? Have a weekly on-site yoga class or runner’s meetup: your customers will begin to create a community around your brand, which could spell very good things for your business.
3. Create an inviting ambiance that your customers will want to experience.
When it comes to shopping online, be it a web browser or mobile app, convenience is the clarion call that keeps customers glued to their couches. Adults lead busy lives, and in many ways, shopping can become a kind of afterthought — the thing you do once everything else has already been taken care of.
That’s why retailers from Apple to Anthropologie and even certain high-end grocery stores go out of their way to create a soothing and attractive in-store environment, paying special attention to how things are arranged, the surrounding decor, the music that’s playing, etc. As a small business owner trying to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar store, you want to make the visit as enticing as possible, and ambiance goes a long way.
But don’t rush it. If you’re not sure exactly what your customers are looking for (and want to avoid an expensive remodel down the line) give yourself time to consider your options. You may even find yourself looking for financing to make it happen. In this case, business owners often consider the use of a long-term loan, based on the extended terms and low interest available.
4. Deliver the very best face-to-face customer service possible.
This one might seem like it goes without saying, but it’s worth repeating: excellent customer service is one of the most important things you can offer your customers. In fact, according to the 2021 State of Consumer Behavior Report by Raydiant, strong customer service was one of the main factors leading to brand loyalty. On the other hand, poor customer service was the leading reason a customer might jump ship for another vendor. Considering that 63% of shoppers feel more loyal to small businesses in light of the pandemic, take the opportunity to show your customers just how grateful you are for their support.
In short, it’s worth investing in your team and providing extra customer service training initiatives if necessary. Your customer service representatives really are one of the most important assets you have as a business.
5. Implement omnichannel experiences
As mentioned above, the name of the game these days is “omnichannel,” meaning offering customers the opportunity to seamlessly jump between multiple types of shopping (in person, online, mobile app, etc).
The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has resulted in many new ways to implement this type of shopping, such as curbside pickup of items ordered online or the ability to shop in-store with the plans to order an item online later. While implementing a full-on omnichannel shopping experience can be daunting for small businesses, doing so can also create a more cohesive shopping experience.
By utilizing these strategies, you can help encourage your customer base to find you where you are: at a physical storefront, ready to provide the kind of human-to-human connection that online shopping, for all its convenience, so often lacks. No matter what you’re selling, that’s a valuable offer.