I was a bit discouraged to see how many of my fellow passengers were Christmas shopping on their phones as we deplaned on our trip to greet our newborn granddaughter ten days ago.  I can see how it would make sense to make use of travel time to do some online errands, but I started to wonder how bricks and mortar retailers are going to keep customers coming — especially those who have grown up shopping on the Internet.

While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I am encouraged to know that around 90% of all retail sales are still done in person. This number is decreasing, but we still have a sizable lead.  So those who say that brick and mortar is not going to be a key element in the future of retailing are wrong.

It works in our favor that online shoppers often use their phones, or other devices, to pre-shop. They also find stores in their area by using the Internet.  So it is essential that you have a good website, one that is portable across formats such as desktop computers, iPads and smartphones, and updated regularly.  (I’m happy to say that our shop just launched a new website, and I invite you to take a look.)

You’ll also want to do mobile marketing, probably mostly through social media such as Facebook and Instagram. If you want to reach customers who are on their phone all the time, your store needs to be a part of what they are seeing.  Learn how to use promotions on social media as part of your paid advertising.

Email blasts with coupons that don’t need to be printed can also be an effective way to reach mobile shoppers.  Build your list by offering meaningful rewards for those who agree to receive your messages.  Our best source of new email addresses is our preferred customer program, which not only offers customers credits based on purchases — but they also get a significant birthday gift every year to reward their loyalty.

Make sure that your store is represented on Google and Apple maps, and look for reviews on platforms such as Yelp.  You’ll want to respond quickly to customer feedback posted online, because potential shoppers will be looking at this information.  It’s always a pleasure to thank a customer for a positive rating!  And although it’s less fun to respond to a negative review, this is an opportunity to show that you care about your customers.

Take a look at what shoppers will experience when they walk through your doors. Do you offer a selection of merchandise, creative customer amenities and a consistently high level of service that makes a visit in person a pleasure? These are essential to making an online shopper happy that they decided to come to your store to shop in person.

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

Please note that there will not be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog on December 25 due to the holiday.