Core Skills for Powering Tangible Results
in Brick-and-Mortar Stores
As we know, upskilling to match the pace of the modern world is a difficult task in most industries, but this is especially true in the world of brick-and-mortar retail.
With Amazon making noises that portray them as harbingers of the end of traditional stores, there are numerous vocational skills retailers need to learn in order to compete with such an era-defining behemoth - from integration with tech to making the in-store experience something that can’t be replicated online or elsewhere.
Today, we’re exploring just some of these invaluable skills - helping retail professionals to build their repertoire and play a vital part in stabilizing the physical retail landscape.
Omnichannel Retail Skills
An industry buzzword continually gaining traction amongst retailers, ‘omnichannel’ simply means being mindful of how online and offline shopping habits intersect. This can be achieved very simply, by allowing customers to BOPUS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store) - meaning that there’s an opportunity for further physical purchasing after clicking ‘buy’ on your website.
Creating the most seamless experience possible is essential, so it pays to invest time and effort into adequately training your staff to maximize customer service and in-store experience. That way, employees will be equipped with the necessary skills to avoid any possible obstacles that could hinder customers’ shopping experience, and once online shoppers enter the store, they can guide them smoothly through the browsing experience.
For bonus points, if you’re aiming to drive maximum foot traffic into your physical store, fine-tuning your offers to include ‘in-store exclusive’ deals is one powerful way to effect this outcome and bolster sales, too.
Optimise your store design
When it comes to store design, many physical store retailers are falling short. Competing with giant ecommerce retailers that can showcase extensive product ranges, there can be a temptation to display as many products as possible in shops to drum up more sales. However, this definitely isn’t always the best tactic.
To optimize store design, forward-thinking retail managers must draw on their marketing and branding expertise to create a consumer-friendly layout that feels slick and modern. Understandably, working within a finite space limits the amount of products you can showcase, but picking out some key top selling items and creating eye-catching displays can be a great way to draw customers in off the street.
Similarly, consider the store layout as you want to make sure shoppers can easily navigate through the space without obstacles and quickly find the items they’re looking for. Positioning key products on eye-level shelves, alongside complementary items, is guaranteed to make their browsing experience much smoother and there’s potential to upsell other items.
First-Class Customer Service Skills
Competing with the convenience of online shopping is difficult, but it can be dramatically easier if the shopping experience is inviting and personal - as a laptop screen and a checkout window simply can’t compete with human interaction.
Lessons can be learned from coffee company Pret A Manger’s staff training, which focuses on a ‘buzz’ surrounding the shop and the overall cheeriness of staff. This is a tactic that helps the brand to retain custom come rain or shine and provide a welcoming shopping experience - something which can be applied to any type of brick-and-mortar store.
Equally important is ensuring that staff find the right balance between being attentive to customers without being overbearing or dismissive - both ends of the customer service spectrum can be frustrating and off-putting for shoppers.
Communicate to your staff the importance of being aware of customers’ buying behaviour and needs in physical stores, and recognizing when someone needs assistance or prefers to shop alone at their own pace.
Brand messaging skills
Adding a dash of personality to your store’s marketing mix is always recommended, as this will help your brand to build a rapport with customers far more easily - improving both brand recognition and loyalty. How can this be done, you ask?
Well, a personal-first branding strategy can be as simple as investing in a chalk sandwich board to place out front, and writing a witty message on it each day. Get the brand voice just right and your message could just go viral (always a welcome result for any retailer, big or small).
Whatever niche you decide to go with for a more personal touch, always be sure to champion consistent brand messaging across the broad. From in-store branding to online, running the same brand message throughout all of your marketing efforts will cement your brand’s recognition both on and offline, resulting in improved rapport with customers at every level.
Retail tech skills
The integration of brick-and-mortar stores with smartphone technology has surpassed ‘trend’ status and is now sweeping through major outlets and independent shops all across the world - and an understanding of both how this technology works and how it strengthens brand-consumer relations is key in the digital age. Having an app wholly integrated into the shopping experience like the H&M Club might be a bit of a stretch for brands working with lower budgets, but integration is still possible.
When designing your store layout, look at the areas where tech can be accommodated that will not only help to bring your brick-and-mortar store to the forefront of your industry, but also improve the shopper’s overall browsing experience.
For instance, consider adding some QR codes to your store shelving which take the shopper to an email signup page, offering a discount as a thank you - a great way to show consumers you value their custom. Alternatively, if you’re worried about window shoppers taking their custom to an online retailer, you could use QR codes to give customers access to a digital display of your full range of products - vital if you don’t have enough physical floorspace to do your products justice. If you haven’t used QR codes before, try getting started with a QR code generator.
Mastering these core skills will get you well on your way to carving out a niche in the brick-and-mortar retail market, but it’s always advisable to keep your ear to the ground for the latest developments. This way, you can continually adapt in line with market leaders and deliver a first-class experience to customers - day in, day out.
About the Author
Simon Mitchell has run successful companies in Europe and the US that are focused on delivering exceptional value to clients – while Action Storage offers a diverse range of storage products, along with the technical expertise to help clients’ businesses operate more efficiently. In Simon’s words, that’s a rewarding place to be.