5 ways retailers can increase sales volumes online and in-store all year
By: Marilynn Joyner, JLL Retail in New York.
The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song goes. It’s also the time of the year where majority of retailers reach their highest annual sales volumes and luckily the increase this season was significant.
Retail had one of its better years in 2017 and is coming off the best holiday shopping season since the Great Recession. The 5.5 percent increase in sales over the holiday, or $691.9 billion according to the NRF, exceeded many expectations. In addition, online retail shopping increased by 18.1 percent, higher than the 10 percent steady increase reported annually by the U.S. Census Bureau.
As we dive into the New Year, it is important to look back at the lessons learned throughout the journey leading to where retailers are today. This past year was challenging as retailers fought the battle between maintaining a strong online channel alongside keeping increasing sales within stores. But, the retailers who integrated the two by making their online platform a portal furthered sales.
But how can retailers keep up the sales momentum throughout the year? Here are our top five recommendations to gain continued success.
1. Create a Brand Parallel
Consumers are becoming less brand loyal. According to the Business of Fashion, two-thirds of millennials say they base most of their purchasing decisions on whether a company’s practices and mission align with their values. Particularly in-store, one of the most creative ways to showcase a brand’s values and drive traffic is by executing a brand parallel. A brand parallel is creating a unique experience that showcases all aspects of a brand allowing for customers to find additional value in their shopping experience. This can easily be executed through a long-term or pop-up model.
An example of a successful brand parallel is Tiffany & Co.’s café concept in Manhattan. The luxury brand broke into the restaurant world through the opening of their Blue Box Café located on the 4th floor of their New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue. The purpose is to allow for their customers to have the experience of a real “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. This allows for customers to shop and sit down for a nice meal adding a unique piece giving consumers a full, active experience.
In addition to Tiffany & Co., American Girl relocated its Manhattan flagship to Rockefeller Center expanding their American Girl Salon, the signature American Girl Café and design studio. Not only can customers shop for their American Girl doll, but they can treat their doll to a full makeover and meal at the café.
An example of temporary store brand parallel is the Google pop-up on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Google creatively showcased an interactive set from the popular Netflix series “Stranger Things” to drive consumer traffic. It allowed for fans to go through a series of situations pulled from the show’s second season.
2. Integrate Technology
As we enter into a stronger digital age, retailers should make it their priority to capitalize on technology. Last year was one of the most transformative periods the retail industry has seen in decades and this year technology will play a huge role for both physical and digital retail.
According to RetailDive, 58 percent of consumers use mobile phones to research product information in stores. And, it is shocking to note that only about 10 percent of all retail purchases are actually made online. Sales see an average increase of 35 percent when customers can pick-up online ordered merchandise in the store.
Over the holiday season, an online retail giant partnered with Calvin Klein by opening pop-up stores in New York City and Los Angeles. They integrated technology through the lack of price tags on their merchandise. Customers would scan the item’s barcode with their phones to reveal the item’s lowest price, which then the store would match. Not only were the retailers creating a unique process, but it allowed for the customer to be in control of the sales price while allowing for the brands to collect customer data.
3. Use Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality
Retailers are embracing new ways of doing business and reengineering how to connect with customers through the integration of artificial intelligence and augmented reality both online and in-stores.
Beauty giants Sephora and Ulta have executed augmented reality through their in-store technology mirrors and allowing for customers to try on make-up on their mobile phones.
Across the globe, Nestle acquired Pepper robots for their Nescafes in Japan, which are humanoid robots that interact with customers and are able to perceive human emotions. According to Softbanks Robotics America, b88ta saw a 60 percent increase in foot traffic after integrating Pepper within two of their California stores.
Within the online space, North Face partnered with IBM to execute a conversation interface where customers go through a series of questions to determine the best product. This not only allows for deep customer interaction but also gives the retailer detailed data on their customers. Consumers want more interaction whether online or in-store and through the utilization of technology, retailers are able to meet their customer’s needs.
4. Invest More in Employees
Even with technology and software on the rise, the primary asset of a physical store is still and will remain human staffing. The engagement, initiative and enthusiasm of in-store staff members are essential in providing a positive experience for consumers while shopping.
This includes online as well. Creating a personal connection and adhering to the customer’s individual needs will increase the likelihood of making sales.
The key for staffers is to create a personal connection with customers and maintain active engagement to each individual they come in contact with, and to continue the relationship through personal touch pieces.
It is important for retailers to continue to invest in their people and train them properly to become successful salespeople.
5. Enhance Marketing Efforts
Though Instagram is the most active media platform for retailers and bloggers promoting brands, it is important for companies to stay active on multiple platforms including social media, email marketing and ad campaigns.
Sephora has gained tremendous success for always having the newest and best brands and they recently launched a social media platform for loyal customers to interact with each other about beauty products. This allows for the customers to network with one another as they try and test products. Sephora on the other hand is able to collect detailed data on which products have the most success and popularity.
Through all media outlets, personalized touch points is key to keeping and maintaining strong customer loyalty.
Want to learn more about how to create a brick-and-mortar experience for your online brand? Reach out to Marilynn Joyner + Erin Grace.
Managing Director, Retail Brokerage, JLL
Associate, Retail Brokerage, JLL