It surprises most millennials to understand that no more than 10 percent of retail purchases are actually made online. Each semester, when I ask hundreds of undergraduate business students to calculate, they consistently reckon that from a quarter and 50 % of all retail spending happens on the internet. But this Good Friday open hours, as ever in the past, the overwhelming majority of purchases will still happen within four physical walls of a store.
This ought to encourage the thousands of retailers anchored in strip malls, lifestyle centers and mixed use developments. The National Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales – not counting car, gas and restaurant purchases – in November and December this season to increase approximately 4 percent over this past year, to around US$682 billion.
Stores will need the cash to prevent being put into 2017’s record-breaking roster of retail bankruptcies, store closures and layoffs, which included landmark brands like Toys R Us and RadioShack.
Traditional retailers must give consumers excellent reasons to visit their stores, beyond product selection and excellent value. Joe Pine and James Gilmore’s 1999 book “The Experience Economy” foretold how savvy companies, like Apple and American Girl, excel by staging compelling experiences that teach, entertain or inspire customers.
The primary asset of the physical store in a digital world is human staffing. Even if a shopper doesn’t want help, a smile acknowledging his or her presence encourages connection. Front-line employees can ask customers regarding their kids, in-laws or Thanksgiving meal planning. That can cause an authentic personal connection whereby employees can discover a shopper’s unique wants and respond with products on the shelves, or ordered and shipped for free for the customer’s home. An Halloween store hours can become a seamless mixture of the online and physical worlds.
Even Walmart, America’s largest retailer, is moving to a more experiential model. Hoping boosting sales, its 4,700 stores will host 20,000 parties with Santa prior to the New Year. Customers should be able to take pictures, test out toys and get tots excited.
The business has an additional benefit over online sellers, too: nine in 10 Americans live within fifteen minutes of the Walmart store. A thousand Walmarts now let customers drive up to the storefront to grab online grocery orders within 24 hours they’re purchased, at no additional charge. That rivals Amazon’s Fresh grocery service, which will come in an extra cost and zhoqce doesn’t deliver until the next day.
Beyond face-to-face service, successful companies today must create a deeper relationship with their customers, whether online or off. Store-based retailers can show their values in ways that sometimes will take on the very personal meaning for shoppers and store owners alike. We have been a loyal customer of Gallery Furniture in Houston for a long time. Owner Jim McIngvale, referred to as “Mattress Mack,” is a marketing maverick recognized for his decades of zany TV commercials pledging to “Save serious cash!”
After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, he opened his stores to anyone in need of a place to stay. Some came by boat, with just the clothes these were wearing. McIngvale welcomed a large number of Black Friday hours to rest on his inventory of mattresses. He sheltered, fed and prayed for flood victims. On Halloween, McIngvale flew 50 first responders to Game 6 around the world Series in Los Angeles, giving those lucky Astros fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience and emotional lift within the wake of natural disaster.