An answer is to grow your presence online, as part of a comprehensive omnichannel retail strategy. This will offer the opportunity you need to reach more customers, make more informed marketing decisions, and ultimately drive profits in a cost effective manner.
An Easter washout
In the end, the number of shoppers on UK high streets fell by 9.6% year-on-year on Good Friday and 6.9% the day after, according to analytics firm Springboard
. Yet it found that footfall in retail parks and shopping centres increased by 5% on the same period last year. The problem for smaller businesses is that they don’t have the financial or organisational firepower to open a store in one of these locations — which tend to be dominated by the well-known, large retail brands.
That’s bad news, especially given the increasingly tough macro-economic conditions facing the sector. The double whammy of weak wage growth and rising inflation — the latter exacerbated by Brexit — continue to depress consumer spending. In these terms, the extra costs associated with opening a new bricks and mortar store — from rent, to energy bills, staffing, stock and admin overheads — can seem like a tall order.
Joining things up
That’s where omnichannel retail comes in. If you’re a bricks and mortar business, consider expanding your presence online: it’s a great, lower-risk way to test the waters. E-commerce does demand some upfront investment in the website, but it’s nowhere near the outlay you’d have to make on new premises, staff, and all the other associated costs of running a bricks and mortar store.
Because you’re online, you’re not gambling on a single geographical location. Virtual footfall could come from all over the country, or even the world, if you wish. The UK is the largest e-commerce market in the EU, with Britons spending an estimated
£15.9bn online during December 2017 alone. The cost of exiting is also far lower than exiting a retail premises.
So where does the value of omnichannel lie? In a nutshell, an omnichannel strategy allows you to create a seamless shopping experience across your website and bricks and mortar store(s). With the right partner to join-up back-end systems, you can control stock and manage payments from a single, unified platform — and gain access to a trove of spending data on your customers.
For the small business owner, this means having a single view of each customer across channels. Learning more about their preferences means you can tailor loyalty schemes, discounts and other marketing efforts. You can get closer to them, make the shopping experience more personalised and drive profits off the back of more loyal, engaged customers.
This isn’t just an opportunity for traditional retailers considering a move online: even internet-only businesses could get into omnichannel by investing in pop-up stores and alternative locations.
Estimates now claim
that omnichannel shoppers can spend up to 300% more than single-channel customers. The bottom line is: if you want to grow your business, the smart money’s on driving connected retail experiences.