Digital Media Strategy Architect, BUNN
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator providing digital place-based signage expertise to end users in the planning, design, sourcing and optimization of their initiatives. He has published more than 300 articles, whitepapers and “how to” guides and helped to train over 10,000 end user and supply professionals. See www.LyleBunn.com.
Retail has not known its crisis of current proportion since the introduction of department stores, big box or discount retailing. While these brought big changes to the retail landscape, the perfect storm of online, mobile and the Millennials demographic are placing physical retail in a daily fight for survival.
Retailers have reacted to the onslaught of online with multi-channel strategies that quickly morphed into omni channel in order to harmonize the various consumer touch points. Most are now struggling to advance quickly into opti-channel and unified communications.
These macro-strategies are all in the name of flexibility of the consumer’s path to purchase while serving brand interests. The access options available to consumers are the melting pot of commerce that cause a neatly linear path to purchase map into what looks more like a plate of spaghetti. The marketers’ arsenal of inventory visibility, product comparisons, cross-selling, ship to home or store, purchase fulfillment and loyalty achievement and being tested, while technology investment by North American retailers has surpassed $125 billion annually.
“Customer experience” (CX) is the battle cry of retail on the shifting sands of consumer preference as empowered consumers led by Millennials not only vote with their wallet, but amplify or denounce brands based on their perception of value. Boomers, zoomers and savvy seniors are echoing Millennials’ attitudes.
Retail foot traffic has declining sharply. The Wall Street Journal reported ShopperTrak data that the 33 billion store visits in November and December 2010 declined to just over 17 billion for the same 2 months in 2013. A 50% decline in store traffic in just 3 years.
Meanwhile, Statista reports that in August 2015 the top 10 online shopping sites had 667 million monthly visits including 188 million for Amazon and 98 million for second-ranked eBay. Amazon accounted for 24% of all retail revenue growth in 2015.
Retail stores must succeed. They offer discovery and the tactile experiences of product look, feel and fit. Stores offer a social experience and for some, even exercise as patrons fulfill their needs and aspire to a bettered life.
Proven in-store strategies are neutralizing “show-rooming”, born of online options, and can reduce product returns. “Returns” has become the largest “supplier” for many retailers, imposing extraordinary costs on the business and challenging customer satisfaction.
Digital signage is part of the solution. It offers the simultaneously achieved benefits of branding and merchandising while bringing improved ambiance and vitality and reducing perceived dwell times at a location. Digital signage can inspire, focus and support sales associate success and express the business partnership of the retailer and its merchants.
So what is a retailer to do? This 5-point plan will be useful.
- Look around. See the digital signage applications in retail, food services, hospitality, transportation, entertainment and other locations that your target customers see and your competitors use.
- Ask for input. Often a short telephone call can get you heading in the right direction and focused on elements of high return on time and investment.
- Designate a project leader to coordinate actions while creating consensus among departments.
- Go for the quick wins while planning for broader benefits.
- Allocate resources to your priorities in making store locations a more attractive destination, that attracts, holds and converts consumers to maximize your margin per visit and business value overall.
During the National Retail Federation conference in January 2016, it was declared that “bricks are the new black”. As the bricks welcome the clicks to the customer experience family, the bricks are called to mature yet again in serving consumer needs and wants.