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The 21st century posed a major conundrum for the retailers: how to fight online competition and improve brick-and-mortar store performance, and how to increase retail foot traffic without compromising store security and safety measures.

According to the Retail Pulse report released by RetailNext, retail sales and foot traffic in U.S. physical locations declined by 7.7 percent in January 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. “The fiscal year closed with the same retail trends, with traffic and sales being down. The conversion was consistent, up .2 percentage points, and average transaction value (ATV) and sales per shopper were essentially flat,” said RetailNext’s Head of Business Analytics Chitra Balasubramanian in an interview with PYMNTS.

An increased number of customers results in a heavier workload for loss prevention teams, which makes it more challenging to prevent shoplifting and eliminate employee theft. Criminal activity might only take a matter of seconds, and retailers must respond quickly and effectively by providing maximum protection. Most important is to prevent store losses by deterring shoplifting and other theft attempts.

Responsible store management must proactively put an efficient store security plan in place, as failing to protect people and assets could have severe impact on business success. Traditional CCTV surveillance technologies work well, but in today’s reality, these measures are not enough. The most effective way to safeguard assets against all kinds of negative scenarios is to equip retail stores with out-of-the-box store security solutions.

Retailers Have to Adopt Technology

Forward-thinking store managers fight shrink both internally and externally. To deter employee theft, they might install clear-door employee lockers secured by code-managed or RFID-managed electronic locks to store employees’ personal belongings. Store managers can audit the content of the lockers at any time. This enhanced store security deters internal merchandise theft by providing extra visibility and protection.

Shoplifting by customers is on the rise. Traditional approaches to prevent shoplifting include electronic article surveillance (EAS), AM/RF security systems, source tagging, anti-high-theft solutions like product “safers”, wraps, etc. In addition, resourceful retailers can take other steps that can provide a unique experience for their customers without sacrificing store security by installing package lockers.

Customers place their purchases in clear-door lockers located at the store’s entry point, or in the back of the store where there is typically less traffic. This serves a dual-purpose by offering storage for the customer while increasing foot traffic in these store areas. Customers lock the locker door with a self-graphselected four-digit code. When customers return after shopping and unlock the lock to get their possessions, the locker becomes available for the next user. This allows the customers to avoid carrying around heavy shopping bags with items that they have purchased in other stores. From the store’s perspective, checking in bags at the entrance adds an additional store security measure while increasing consumer confidence.

Neha Mallik, senior content producer at MobStac, advises providing ‘add-on’ services. “Services such as “click-and-collect” that enable customers to pay online and collect their purchases are a huge hit among shoppers,” he claims. Online purchases can be stored in personal lockers in the store, with the customer receiving a personal code by e-mail when the product is available. When the customers arrive to collect their purchase, they then enter the code to open the locker door and pick up their merchandise. This hybrid shopping experience allows customers to try on the item they have purchased online while in the store and returning it if it doesn’t fit.

Some might argue that retailers should focus greater attention on their e-commerce business with more customers being converted into online buyers. However, recent statistics show that even millennials make most of their purchases in traditional stores.

“To me, the most optimistic data point in our study is the high ranking given to optimizing stores as a major channel. It is called out as a challenge, but the good news is that most retailers now realize that physical stores are not a weakness but a valuable asset,” said Jeff Roster, former vice president of industry market strategies-retail for Gartner. “To convert stores from being a weakness into becoming valuable assets will likely require a technology makeover that includes such items as mobile loyalty apps, beacons, digital signage and a host of other solutions that are now emerging and being experimented with.”

With Knowledge Comes Power: Know Your Customer

In-store shopping and e-commerce have more in common than what some might think. These previously separate business models started to blend with the birth of an omni-channel approach. Many consumers are accustomed to the convenience of online shopping and expect their in-store experiences to be fast and problem-free. The number one reason why consumers still prefer physical shops to online shopping is the ability to walk in and get what they need immediately. Some companies, such as Apple, for example, have blended the ease of online electronic payment with the comfort of in-store shopping.

There are no cash registers in their stores, and sales reps handle transactions on smartphones. Mid-sized chains such as Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie are equipping their stores with mobile devices to allow for instant purchasing experience. These are additional attraction points for the customers to visit the stores.

Keith Carpentier, former senior business development manager at Tensator, Inc., advises: “Create an in-store experience – from story-telling to service excellence. Online retailers offer fast service, styles, sizes, availability etc. but they can’t offer a memorable experience or immediate gratification. Retailers can capitalize on creating an immersion ambiance that appeals to all senses, today’s mobile savvy culture and values the customer’s time. Offering entertainment, next-gen digital signage/interactivity, in-queue merchandising and sleek, elegant queue management will go a long way in bringing in customers and retaining them.”

Top Consumer-Driven Retail Trends: Foot Traffic Technology and Charging Lockers

Let’s take a closer look at the contemporary buyer’s persona. The most frequent brick-and-mortar stores’ visitors are baby boomers. For this group, traditional point of purchase (POP) installations close to the register (POS) will likely to be enough to increase sales. These may be new products, special offers, or special events promotions, seasonal or holiday sale items, placed in bins at the entrance, or in check-out areas. Why does POS work? Because according to statistics, half of buying decisions are classified as impulse buys made while people are in the store shopping for other items. This is a major plus for traditional stores, which can increase foot traffic just by making smart decisions to attract customers with the highest purchasing power.

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