Sales of various products over the Internet are growing year by year. And if before the shoe business was still under the onslaught of new technologies, since the purchase of boots or elegant shoes requires fitting, then with the development of online services and an increase in the quality of postal services (for example, it became possible to return goods after an unsuccessful fitting with minimal costs), the situation became more complicated.
According to recent consumer surveys, online shopping is ahead of classic commerce in areas such as electronics and home appliances, mobile telephony and computer technology. True, almost 60% of customers still prefer to buy textiles and shoes in ordinary stores, today less than 7% of respondents prefer to buy food and drinks online. Interestingly, the complex relationship between classic and online trading has little to do with the purchasing power of customers. The popularity of online shopping more depends on the age of the consumer and the region of residence.
The advantages of a regular purchase in a store for the customer are obvious: the ability to immediately evaluate and receive the goods, if you want to pay in cash, it’s easy to exchange, do not pay for delivery, the ability to get more information from the seller, and the answers are precisely those questions that interest a particular buyer. The only question is whether these advantages outweigh those amenities that online trading platforms offer the client.
Try on and then order in the online store
The ability to immediately see the “product face”, touch it, try it on and make a purchase are the most important factors, in addition to individual consultation, which remain the advantages of classical trading in comparison with the Internet business. But since sellers' salaries, logistics costs, and rental of floor space affect the price tag, customers who come to see and measure, and then order the selected product on the Internet at a better price, are increasingly meeting in the store. So, according to statistics, every fifth online purchase is carried out after the customer has familiarized himself with the product live.
This phenomenon is especially relevant for shoe makers. So far, few decide to buy shoes without trying on. But the idea of choosing the right size in the store and then ordering the selected pair on the Internet for a more reasonable price is already liked by a much larger number of potential buyers. In the age of the Internet, it is becoming apparent that a change in strategy in classic trading is a matter of survival in competition with online sellers.
It is important to clearly state the goals. The first: to keep the client by finding arguments that win not only competitor neighbors, but also the World Wide Web. Second: return those who have already tried the delights of online trading. Third: to attract new customers who have not yet decided where exactly they prefer to make purchases - in the shopping center near the house or with the help of clicks.
Price reduction is not always a justifiable move
What can be the advantage that will help you win in the difficult struggle for the client? The obvious move is to lower prices. The sale helps to get rid of leftovers at the end of the season and make room for new collections. But this negatively affects profits, which is especially true in the periods before and after the holidays, when everyone is waiting for sales and significant discounts. Moreover, such “games with numbers" form a bad habit: customers get used to periods of low prices, which negatively affects their activity in normal times. So each entrepreneur weighs the pros and cons himself and decides whether to be included in the price race. Is there an alternative, and if so, which one?
Choosing a lifestyle, not a product
You can recall the common phrase, but that has not lost its relevance, the phrase: the client chooses not a product, but a lifestyle. This means that the right atmosphere is very important for creating a shopping mood, especially in competition with the online store, where you can get at any time of the day or night without getting up from the couch.
Consultations and individual communication with the seller also belong to the advantages of classical trading. The emotional component of communication in classical trading is inseparable from the buying process and is still a weighty argument. If the client feels comfortable in your store, and the suitable assortment is complemented by quality service, most people are consciously ready to overpay a little for the goods they like.
Those services in which the traditional store cannot compete with the online platform should be replaced with specific offers for the buyer. A well-thought-out service - from the opportunity to change shoes that did not fit the size, or return the purchase, and ending with special offers for regular customers - largely eliminates the advantages of online platforms.
Deploy Offline Services Online
The following recommendations are aimed at "external" communication, which affects the decisions of the buyer.
1. The shopping atmosphere begins with the correct design of the store, and it consists of the details. A successful combination of music, aromas and authentic atmosphere affects the motives of customers - from the desire to go to the store to the decision to make a purchase.
2. Too many models on the window, located close to each other, prevent the eye from focusing, and the buyer to make a decision. A variety of brands can also not always be an advantage: often this means erosion of the target group. Thus, you need to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of a multi- and single-brand concept and make an informed choice without mixing two different approaches.
3. To some extent, you can take advantage of online trading in a classic store. For example, include delivery in the list of services: the buyer can still get individual advice and try on, but no longer have to go shopping, loaded with heavy packages. A quick and hassle-free return or exchange of goods can also serve a good service: here Internet services lose out to a regular store in speed and simplicity.
4. A successful strategy is also to use many channels of communication with the consumer: if online sites are in the camp of the enemy, then the Internet itself should become your reliable friend. A professionally created, thoughtful website that does not compete with your offline store, but supplements it, is a good way to attract and retain customers. The synergy effect is achieved by the simultaneous use of a method such as working in the offline sector: for example, joint promotions with neighboring stores from other segments, the presence of coupons for goods of “neighbors”.
Of course, large-scale promotions, lotteries or (in the case of large players) fashion shows require a certain budget: it all depends on the clientele, price category, store positioning. But an original and memorable event can be created for little money - for example, charity events in favor of orphanages, hospitals and nursing homes, which can be helped by making a purchase in a store, are gaining great popularity.
5. A multichannel communication strategy (omni-channel) also implies interconnected ways of selling a product. It is quite acceptable that the seller, in an interview with the customer, tells him that on your site he can find several hundred products of the category of interest to him, reserve the pair he likes online and pick up / try on in the store in the near future.
6. Another trend of the era of high technology is free access to the Internet. Given the characteristics of the target audience, it may make sense to provide free access to the network for mobile devices in your retail stores in order to indulge the public in its desire to immediately boast of the purchase by posting photos on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Thus, a modern semblance of word of mouth is formed, creating additional advertising for your store through a network of satisfied customers.
7. The development of online commerce has already affected the audience’s internal attitudes. So, the spread of online shopping forms a habit of “optional solutions”: you can make a purchase at any second of 24 hours a day, you can postpone the decision and return to this idea later. And you need to come to the store, and during working hours, and if you liked the product, buy it and not go in for several days in a row just for fitting. You can choose a different approach to this phenomenon and the possibilities to influence it. On the one hand, with the help of promotions and a shopping atmosphere, stimulate the customer’s desire to make a purchase right now, and on the other hand, as has already been said, to facilitate the process of returning and exchanging goods as much as possible in order to create a feeling of comfort for the buyer.
Any of the above methods of external communication will work if it suits your target group. Thorough customer knowledge and customer-oriented marketing are factors that give classical trading the opportunity not only to survive in a changing environment, but also to wrap the changes in their favor.
In order to correctly implement measures aimed at attracting and retaining a client, in a competitive environment with online services, as never before, it is important to realize the importance of communication skills that your sales staff should have. What will regular customers think if they see new faces at every visit? How to reduce staff turnover and how to organize the training of new employees so that they maintain the service and reputation of your store at the proper level? You will have to give a clear answer to all these questions and continue to adhere to your chosen strategy. As in many other cases, the human factor will play a decisive role. When the supply exceeds demand, especially when it comes to the ability to make purchases around the world, the correct selection of personnel, their training and motivation become issues of survival. It is your people and their ideas in business that will help you to be different from others so that the choice of a client falls on your store.
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