How to Bring the Digital Experience to Stores

NEW YORK (CRM Evolution 2012)—"The store is broken and needs to be fixed—fast," maintained Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. At a time when retail sales are in the doldrums and showrooming—the practice of examining a product in a store before purchasing the item online—has become a common way to shop, retailers are racing to find innovative ways to compete with online retailers.

Retailers, according to Baird, need to focus on the "five Cs" of in-store marketing: content, community, commerce, context, and customer insights. Just as shoppers consult product reviews, blogs, and online recommendations, brick-and-mortar stores need to provide consumers with useful information. "You're actually at a disadvantage if you start your shopping in a store instead of online," Baird noted.

GuitarCenter.com includes information about its employees' expertise and knowledge of instruments by store. This is a smart move, noted Baird, since it gives consumers an incentive to visit stores. As an added plus, Google prioritizes local search results. Another way to bring the digital experience to stores is grouping items as "best sellers" and other categories found on Web sites.

Stores should also make it easier for customers to purchase an item without having to wait on a line. Commerce should be "enabled anywhere, on anyone's device," Baird said. Vendors such as Aisle Buyer make it possible for customers to purchase items by scanning the item's barcode on their smartphone after downloading an app and pick up their receipts at the exit.

In order to survive, retailers must treat their stores as a marketing channel as well as a place to make a sale. "Just like there are no longer any boundaries on what can be a store," Baird said, "there should not be boundaries between the store and marketing when it comes to customer engagement. "

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