By Mary Ann Yule, President & CEO, HP Canada Co.
Reports of a retail apocalypse have been prevalent in the news lately, especially after major department store chain, Sears Canada, announced its closure. However, it is not all doom and gloom—in fact, retail sales figures were up for 2017, revealing significant opportunities for retailers ready and willing to reinvent the in-store experience.
In order for retailers to drive steady sales growth and keep pace with their competition, let’s have a look at five strategies to adopt now:
Millennials will be the biggest demographic group within a few years, and for them it is all about experience. Entertainment-focused shopping events that grab their attention, enable conversations, encourage positive brand associations, and generate buzz are shifting the way consumers make purchasing decisions. Mobile associates with tablets is just the beginning: think live music events, in-store sports arenas, virtual dressing rooms.
Pop-ups are a big trend, showing up inside stores, shopping centres, even on street fronts. In fact, David Ian Gray, retail consultant and head of Vancouver-based think tank DIG360, predicts that 2018 will be “the year of the pop-up” in Canada.
Whether for deepening consumer relationships or testing new markets, pop-ups are no longer designed only for point-of-sales. Instead, they are deployed to engaged with customers in a memorable way. According to EventTrack, the largest experiential research report, 98 per cent of consumers feel more inclined to purchase after attending an experiential activation. Nordstrom is hosting pop-ups, such as Louis Vuitton and Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.
Technology offers other options too like digital large-format print that can transform spaces quickly and inexpensively. With Latex prints, retailers can create custom wall art that changes with the season or promotion for an evergreen experience.
Retail is evolving to be more than a space for consumers to make a purchase. Today’s customers are after a sense of community, and they look to brands they trust to provide them. Consider Indigo Books & Music. While many traditional bookstores have closed, Indigo had double-digit growth in its general merchandise business. This “cultural department store” offers gifts, baby and lifestyle items and provides both adults and children with in-store engagement options, such as a tech area, play area, and coffee bar. In broader terms, leading malls are planning to open VIP Cineplex cinemas and The Rec Room this year, transforming malls into community gathering places where people spend time together, enjoy entertainment, and spend money.
Ecommerce remains below 10 per cent of all Canadian retail purchases and many retailers have been afraid to leverage ecommerce out of fear that they won’t be able to compete with established online sellers. That doesn’t have to be the case. The goal is an omnichannel approach that meets customers in a personalized and relevant way at each step of their journey.
Over the most recent holiday season, more shoppers shopped both online and in-store, versus online only or in-store only. These omnichannel shoppers also spent more dollars than online-only or in-store only shoppers. This hybrid model not only gives customers the ability to shop how, when and where they want, but also offers retailers new insights via data gathering.
Today’s in-store POS technology is equipped to deliver the performance and versatility retailers look for and provides an experience-focused shopping environment their customers increasingly expect. From traditional to mobile, retailers can transform the shopping experience with technology solutions that help empower employees and engage customers.
Investing in the POS system that works best for their business - whether that be supplementing their traditional point-of-sale system, or implementing a sleek, modern multi-function or mobile system – demonstrates commitment to providing solutions that meet growing customer needs for an engaging in-store experience. The result is new and retuning customers.
Know your customer
Part of the omnichannel approach is deploying customer data to continue the engagement from online to mobile to store, rather than starting over at each step. Connecting CRM tools to capture and seamlessly integrate data is the goal.
Nearly 40 per cent of Canadian consumers report that peer reviews and feedback on social media influences their shopping behavior, a number that grows upwards of 55 per cent for those 18–24 years of age. This further emphasizes the importance of retailers building strategies and tactics for social media to solicit feedback and engage in innovative ways to keep pace with competitors.
Make it easy and safe
Brands live on websites, so retailers can’t afford to alienate consumers with complicated or slow-going sites. Digital performance management company SOASTA found that optimal load time to achieve peak conversion and revenue ranged from 1.8 to 2.7 seconds; more than half of mobile site visitors will leave a page that fails to load in three seconds.
Sites must not only authentically reflect the brand, but also elegantly adapt to different devices, browsers and networks to ensure a consistent, easy and intuitive brand-reflective experience. This ease-of-use must be preserved while ensuring the strictest security, with massive breaches making headlines regularly. With mobile shopping on the rise—30 per cent of Millennials say phones will become their primary purchase tool—designing secure friendly, from-anywhere purchasing is critical.
The retail apocalypse might be better named the retail metamorphosis. Retailers ready to reinvent how they understand their business and customers will be primed to reap substantial rewards.
Mary Ann Yule is the President & CEO of HP Canada Co. As the leader of HP Canada Co., Mary Ann Yule’s central focus is delivering innovative technology that makes life better for all consumers, businesses and public sector organizations. In her role, she is responsible for all aspects of HP Inc.’s business and operations in Canada, including its market leading portfolio of printers, personal computers, commercial 3D printing technology, workstations, solutions and services.