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GUEST OPINION Bricks and mortar retailers learn from ecommerce and become destinations stores 

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Bricks and mortar stores need to become more like online retailers to survive – so what can they learn and put into practice from their online counterparts – and is the wireless router now as important as the PoS? Lino Notaro, retail sales director at TP-Link UK thinks it might be

Many retailers have it tough right now. According to the Springboard Sales Tracker, department stores experienced a 1.6% drop in sales in June, while fashion clothing fell by 2.3%, as consumer confidence suffered its largest decline in two years.

Reasons are complex: rising inflation eating into disposable incomes, uncertainty post-Brexit, higher levels of consumer debt and a decline in UK GDP growth.

While footfall has fallen, online retail sales grew by 18% last year, and overall by 27% over the past two years, according to accountancy firm BDO.

There is no doubt online shopping has had a massive impact on traditional retailers. To earn back sales, stores have become show rooms, a golden opportunity for retailers to help consumers figure out which device they should buy.

Take routers for example, without supporting point of sale, stores find it difficult to demonstrate why you would benefit from replacing the one that comes free from your ISP. For example, there are routers on the market that come with anti-virus solutions built-in as standard to protect all the devices within your home, plus sophisticated parental controls.

Every square centimeter in store has to work hard for its money so POS comes at a premium. The same restrictions don’t apply online. It’s easy to integrate explanatory and set-up videos that remove the fear factor associated with tinkering with the very heart of your Wi-Fi.

Research Online Buy Offline is still a current trend that both etailers and retailers need to take in to consideration. Research by PWC shows that the split between online and in store sales are broadly equal, despite the lion’s share of research taking place online. We have seen a step-change in retailers attitude to educational POS and creating an inviting environment for customers, effectively making stores a destination.

Some etailers have also successfully adopted this approach, focusing on rich content, simple navigation, add on sales and of course education creating a visual feast that brings purchases to life for the consumer.

Retailers are using their USP’s to fight back and win sales. There is no doubt that its expensive to operate two retail channels. It’s a no-brainer to keep consumers in store for longer so they can be persuaded to see, touch and talk to knowledgeable people about the various solutions available to solve common Wi-Fi problems.

Also, consumers are less inclined to impulse purchase online as they are in store. A survey earlier this year revealed 68% of consumers said they made impulse buys in store, compared with 31% buying online.

Putting effort into in-store education, to show the customer how a device can fit into their existing lifestyle and improve it, could mean the difference between just looking and an actual purchase. The high street is slowly changing from bits and bytes messaging to plain speaking solution messages which leaves the consumer in no doubt how the product will improve their life.

Retailers are sacrificing precious store space that was previously filled with stock to create spaces where customers can try a product out, for example, building on the Amazon Echo eco system of associate products like the TP-Link smart bulbs and smart plugs that can be controlled with voice commands.

Customers want to be entertained, look at the cosmetic range Lush where customers are actively encouraged to try the bath bombs and jelly soap in the purpose-built sinks, in the knowledge that the longer the customer stays in store the bigger their eventual basket will be. Tech stores are embracing the same philosophy integrating ‘play tables’ where consumers can try before they buy.

Etailers need to watch this evolution closely, and choose their silver bullet carefully to make sure the tables don’t turn and retailers don’t erode their markets. As we all know, customers have more choice than ever before which means we, in sale and marketing, have to work harder and smarter to earn their precious pounds.

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