In the past decade, we’ve seen a huge change in retail with the emergence of new approaches to shopper engagement, such as mattress retailer Casper’s experience outposts and fashion retailer Club Monaco’s coffee shop and bookstore integrations. The traditional place of purchase (“old retail”) has been rebranded to entice consumers to spend more time — and money — in physical brick-and-mortar environments.
Even the most traditional of big-box retailers have joined the movement: Target opened a slew of urban “micro-stores.” More often found in sprawling suburban shopping malls, the family favorite retailer had to learn how to entice and engage with a newer, younger and much more brand-promiscuous shopper. The new store format’s highly-curated and limited collections offer in-the-moment buying “opportunities” — a winning customer service combination of availability, ease of accessibility and well-timed promotions to sway consumers.
Before e-commerce, and the tightened wallets of the past 10 years, consumers tended to spend with the brands they knew and, once the consumer-brand relationship was established, it was trusted and long-lasting. In a role reversal, today’s new “conscious” consumers want choice, value and convenience as they continue to carve out their own individual paths to purchase. While they might be willing to invest dollars in brand relationships, their fickleness means brands have to work harder than ever to earn their loyalty.
Competing with each other for consumer attention, while simultaneously figuring out what the new customer experience should look like, today’s brands need to constantly build and reinforce the relationship by anticipating needs and catering to the customer. Online darling Dollar Shave Club and the experience-first community favorite Sephora have excelled in this area through their attention to providing a great customer experience.
Experience and excellence, both in product and service, characterize the offering, but data is what makes the engagement stick. Visibility and accessibility both online and offline are fundamental in a world that requires brands constantly build and rebuild the consumer relationship. This is where location can become a game changer.
By utilizing mobile location data, not only can retailers gain a much clearer understanding of consumer behavior, but they can also provide the level of one-to-one customer service experienced in mom-and-pop stores. Leveraging location data allows brands to better target potential buyers at key points in their shopping journeys with helpful content.
For instance, the new mother who is planning a her weekly trip to the store would greatly appreciate a last-minute coupon from a baby formula brand. Through contextual analysis and location data, marketers can understand where actual consumers are in their journeys to purchase and help them with offers or useful content when they are most receptive. This not only sways last minute decisions but also strengthens the brand-consumer relationship to keep consumers coming back.
Target’s micro-stores seem purpose-built with this new consumer in mind, and provide hope that what we’re seeing on Main Street is less a slow death, and more a retail renaissance. The renewed customer service will drive this retail renaissance, making winners of those brands that evolve to meet the in-the-moment decision-makers on their terms. While the new wave of digital-first retailers who are succeeding against this new construct quickly adapted to these changes, it’s exciting to see more traditional retailers like Target start to rewrite the retail playbook too.
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