The Future of Independent Retail
May 11, 2018
The day-to-day routines of successful independent retailers are changing at lightning speed. In particular, independent retailers with brick and mortar stores are preparing for a shift to ‘brick and fiber’, with omni-channel (in-store and online) selling becoming the expected norm for customers. These changes offer incredible opportunities to stand out, expand, and build a nationwide brand without opening additional stores. Let’s explore some of the big opportunities presented by the coming future of independent retail.
Those who master omni-channel selling will win
Brick and mortar stores will increasingly be accompanied by an online store stocking the same products. Customers have the option to pay online and pickup in-store, or have products sent to them. Retailers will be surprised to see time-strapped local customers purchasing products online and opting to have them shipped. Convenience is paramount, and the more options and convenience you offer, the better you will do. Though some independent retailers are ahead of the curve and already selling omni-channel, the future will see most stores adopting this model as customers come to expect it.
In the Instagram age, beautiful merchandising and presentation of product is paramount. Store owners are increasingly using channels like Instagram to draw customers into their brick and mortar or online stores by sharing photos of thoughtful, beautiful product merchandising. Some of the most successful independent retailers have just one brick and mortar store, which is used to create a brand experience that is shared through social media and online. Products are packed and shipped nationwide via a warehouse which is rarely ever visible on social media.
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One successful example is Harriet’s General, a brick and mortar store in Virginia with a substantial Instagram following as [@harrietsgeneral])(https://www.instagram.com/harrietsgeneral/). The Harriet’s General store does double-duty as a photography studio, providing a setting for the creation of beautiful Instagram images. As a result, the store has a large following of people who live outside its home state of Virginia but shop the store online via Instagram, allowing the store to serve a much broader range of customers while still staying small and independent. Stores like Harriet’s General are leading the way, but in the future, many successful independent retailers will follow this model.
@harrietsgeneral on Instragram
Brick and mortar stores will have a digital core
For a long time, the only software you’d see behind the counter in brick and mortar stores was a POS system. This will no longer be the case, with brick and mortar stores increasingly running software behind the counter to manage employee communication, rewards, recognition, training, and sales goals.
Employee performance will be augmented by digital tools
Providing great customer service will no longer rely on hiring sales associates who are the “perfect fit”, something which is often not realistic. Instead, the emphasis will be on hiring sales associates with adequate potential, then using digital systems to get the most from them: this includes things like sales contests integrated with POS systems, gamification (turning sales into a fun game), rewards programs, and instant recognition for great work.
Store owners will have increased location independence
Analytics tools and software will allow you to access information about your store remotely via the internet. This includes sales figures, staff performance, and clock-in/clock-out times. The store owner who is tethered to their store, always required to ensure that things are running smoothly, will slowly become a thing of the past.
In short, the future of independent retail is bright for those who can make the switch to omni-channel selling, with brick and mortar and online channels both contributing to each other. Retailers who can integrate both channels will be stronger than those who focus on only one channel. Independent retailers like Harriet’s General demonstrate the strength that a carefully curated brick and mortar presence can lend to a successful omni-channel strategy.