With all the customer touchpoints available to retailers, many often overlook the importance of the last mile of retail—the bricks-and-mortar store. Ultimately, the bricks and mortar store is the last touch point with a customer and the critical component to driving sales.
Though the Internet is an important medium for customer research, the majority of consumers make their decisions in-store (85 percent). As such, targeting them with effective in-store messaging, product placement and promotions becomes critical to making the sale and improving customer retention and satisfaction.
However, for many mobile and imaging retailers, executing a comprehensive in-store marketing and merchandising strategy can be a daunting challenge. The product landscape has changed a great deal over the last few years, making developing and executing effective in-store campaigns and seasonal promotions much more complicated.
With all this in mind, how exactly does a retailer stay ahead of the retail cycle and successfully implement effective in-store campaigns and merchandising strategies in this changing retail landscape? Here’s a bit of advice.
Step 1: Execution from a single platform
The first step in streamlining the merchandising and in-store campaign process is to create a single platform for executing these tasks. Today, most retailers, both in the mobile/imaging space and in other verticals, use a number of different systems to execute in-store merchandising and data collection. As a result, the cross-functional teams attempting to collaborate have an ill-defined set of tasks and little means to hold one another accountable for moving the process forward. Data silos are created and teams make decisions based only on the data available to them.
A single platform also enables retailers to extend the reach and relationship with their product suppliers, giving them insight into the merchandising process. This is becoming increasingly important as highly sought-after brands are demanding proof of execution, particularly as they make decisions about whether to allocate their marketing budgets to in-store or direct-to-consumer digital channels. Proof of execution is more often than not the driving force behind a high-profile brand’s decision to give a retailer exclusivity to a product. Thus, the retailer who is able to prove a brand’s dollars are spent in the right place and their carefully planned campaigns are executed properly will be the one most likely to win exclusivity.
Retailers that are succeeding offer their partners a unified platform where all campaigns, assets, tasks and messages are stored. Having this single view ensures everyone is on the same page no matter how quickly the product landscape changes or how many campaigns are executed in a given period.
Step 2: Visual Two-Way Communication
Are you using outdated processes—like Excel spreadsheets, phone, fax and mailings—to communicate in-store merchandising changes? Studies show that most of your retail peers do, and it’s a major driver of merchandise program non-compliance, which negatively impacts sales performance. Retailers communicate merchandising and store changes to retail teams with written instructions that are generally lengthy and only partially applicable to their unique storefront.
Retailers should focus on visual, two-way communication with their store employees. This means giving store teams images, such as planograms, of how they want displays set up and where they should be placed within the store. This is particularly important for campaigns that require intricate or complex displays or products with a large assortment of accessories that need to be merchandised accurately. It’s also critical for educating store staff on the features and uses of the new generation of phones or cameras, as selling these products is often a more complex process. Store employees can in turn provide faster feedback when a campaign has been executed so corporate has a clear understanding of compliance and the impact an accurately executed campaign has on sales.
Part of the communication is allowing the store to report issues they are having so those issues can be resolved as quickly as possible, and even allowing stores to order POP materials directly from a fulfillment center through that platform.
Step 3: Localize campaigns/product selection
A store in Boston can be very different than one in Los Angeles, both in terms of layout and also in local customer preferences. Applying a blanket approach to how you merchandise and execute in-store campaigns just doesn’t make good business sense. To maximize revenue for each customer that enters a store, retailers must display the exact products and messaging that will compel a purchase. That means tailoring merchandise to unique local consumer needs. Many savvy retailers understand this, but too often leave such localization decisions solely up to the “gut-feel” of local store managers. While these managers play an important role in the process, retailers must better leverage the data they already have by automating the localization process. The result will be a stronger, more targeted connection with the customer.
Dan Wittner is Chief Customer Officer at RBM Technologies where he is responsible for global sales, marketing, business development and client success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org