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How Can Businesses Adapt to the Changing Retail Environment?

 

The struggles of the retail sector are well documented. In fact, the UK high street is currently recovering from its worst year on record. It’d be easy for retailers to throw in the towel and disappear from our high streets like so many other major brands have done already. But that’s not what’s happening. 

 

With the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis, bricks and mortar retail has taken an even harder hit. However, there are lessons to be learned from savvy retailers who have experience at adapting to the changing retail environment and delivering innovative experiences that bring in paying customers. Here’s how they’re doing it. 

 

What’s Changed in Customer Behaviour?

On the surface, the most obvious shift has been in how consumers shop. Online shopping is worth around £106.46 billion each year in the UK and that figure is only heading in one direction. 

 

Ecommerce websites are thriving because consumers can shop when they want, where they want and receive their items the next day. But the change in customer behaviour, and the retail environment as a result, has been caused by more than just the rise of online shopping. 

 

It’s not just about how customers are shopping. There’s been a change in why they’re doing it and what their expectations are. Today’s customers aren’t interested in the traditional shopping experience and that’s the key word - experience. 

 

They want to be immersed in something that’s unique, personalised and easily shareable on social media. They love surprises and expect to be completely engaged from the moment they pass through the doors.

 

Firstly, shoppers are far more likely to visit high streets and shopping centres that also feature a non-retail offering and they’ll spend more too. Families come for the mini golf, cinema or ice skating but part with their hard-earned cash at retailers as well.  

 

Secondly, 73% of consumers are more likely to spend their time and money in stores that offer some kind of experience. Better customer engagement encourages people through the doors and delivers on the change in expectations that consumers have.

 

So, what can retailers do to meet customer expectations and adapt to the changing retail environment?

 

How Retailers Can Improve Customer Engagement

 

Experiential Retail

We’ve already touched on the importance of experiences for retailers. It’s all about subverting customer expectations. Instead of just offering the same shopping experience as everyone else, launch pop-up shops or provide live product demonstrations.

 

Anything that attracts customers and makes your store memorable. 

 

In the guide available at the bottom of this page, we’ve collated some of our favourite examples of experiential retail. They include a big sleepover at Ikea, a life-sized game of Angry Birds in Barcelona and an adrenaline-fuelled VR experience from Land Rover. 

 

Cutting-Edge Tech

Retailers are looking to technology for innovative ways of improving the customer experience. Augmented reality, interactive displays and virtual fitting rooms are just some of the ways that stores can convince customers to return.

 

We’re already used to self-checkouts at supermarkets but it won’t be long before checkouts are gone altogether.

 

Amazon’s Go store has shown that it’s possible for a completely seamless shopping experience that doesn’t involve staff or the traditional way of paying. The store uses computer vision, deep learning and sensor fusion technology to automate the payment and checkout process.

 

Free WiFi

Can your customers access WiFi when they’re shopping? If not, then you’ll find they’re less likely to stick around for too long. WiFi is available on trains, in restaurants and at sports venues. We’re so accustomed to it that it’s quite jarring when we’re in a pub or store that doesn’t offer it. 

 

Not only does the WiFi attract customers and keep them shopping, it also provides valuable insights for retailers. If stores know dwell times and high traffic areas, they can make more informed business decisions that can drive revenue. 

 

Data that’s harnessed from the WiFi can allow retailers to effectively measure the results of experiments within the store to see what’s been effective. It might be that this information presents possible gaps in the products or services that are on offer. Fix these issues and retailers can see an uptake in sales. 

 

Plus, loyalty program integrations can help to convert normal customers into brand advocates who keep coming back. 

 

The retail environment doesn’t sit still for long which is why it’s so important for retailers to embrace change. We’ve created a guide that’s packed with tips and ideas that will improve customer experience and engagement. 

 

Boost Customer Engagement

To get your hands on the aforementioned customer experience guide, click the link below. In addition to the experiential retail examples, it also features sections on consumer trends, how to establish customer connections through personalisation and the importance of building communities. 

 

Download our guide now and discover how you can increase repeat business and boost customer engagement. 

 

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Main Image Credit

Rees Flynn

Rees Flynn

Rees Flynn

Rees has a particular specialism in telecoms and takes great pride in helping his customers create a solution that enables them to get the most value from their WiFi. He thrives in the dynamic and pioneering culture at WiFi SPARK and uses his commercial nous and years of experience in the IT sector to ensure that his customers receive the highest level of service.