Reclaiming the Four Walls: Top Five Brick-and-Mortar Retail Trends in 2013

By Shelley E. Kohan, shelley@retailnext.net

Retail’s four walls are the most valuable marketing assets out there today. The brick-and-mortar stores that know how to optimize their physical locations for maximum productivity will be the ones who come out on top this year. Here are the top five trends that will distinguish the leaders from the laggards, and will define retail’s future for years to come:

1. The in-store experience
Providing “The In-Store Experience” is vital for physical stores to win over foot traffic and brand loyalty. Customers that are in the stores want to “feel” an experience and they want to be entertained. Shoppers want to explore, learn and have fun. Above all else, they want that instant gratification from products that are in stock and easy to find. To provide the best experience, follow the “Three P’s” of shopping success:

1)    Personalized service,
2)    Productive visits, and
3)    Positively convenient.  

2. Big-data analytics
As retailers continue to figure out how to deliver the omni-channel experience, measuring in-store performance will be key. The goal is to have in-store shopping metrics that mirror on-line capabilities: the who-what-when-where-how of customers. It is not enough to have the data, retailers must use the data in ways to grow shareholder value. Profit is priceless. Applying Big Data metrics in the physical store results in targeted, personalized marketing and predictive in-store shopping behavior.

3. Pricing transparency
With the evolution of showrooming, pricing transparency has become ever more pressing. The difference this year is that retailers are figuring out how showrooming can actually help build sales. The good news is that two thirds of shoppers today use the Internet as the front door to physical stores. Instead of running from these informed shoppers, invite them in, have products available, and be knowledgeable about pricing.

For some stores, that calls for the use of visible price comparisons. For other, high-service stores, make sure the pricing is competitive. With technology today, there is no reason a customer should walk into a store and tell the sales associate an item is cheaper down the mall. Be proactive and get ahead of the game.

4. Social and mobile overhaul
Converting social and mobile commerce into sales is key this year. For the last few years, retailers have spent time getting up and running on these applications. Now it’s time to figure out how to get them to pay off. But for physical stores, how can smartphone apps and social media drive more foot traffic? There are many ways to do so, but here’s a fun trend that combines social and shopping: Haul videos, the ultimate social gone viral. In this case “haulers” go into brick-and-mortar stores, buy products, take them home, and make a “haul video” which details the hauler's likes and dislikes of the “booty.” Brick-and-mortars need to figure out how to leverage this trend to drive in-store sales. The hauler of today is like the fashion blogger of three years ago.

5. The New “CEO”
Meet the new “CEO,” a trend that has been around for a while now, but is more prevalent than ever. The new person calling the shots across all channels is the customer. Customers will dictate what they want, the prices they will pay, and the channels they will shop.

The customer expects a personalized marketing plan, a connection with the brand, a product that has value and an “enhanced shopping experience.” One could argue that the customer has always been calling the shots; however, the one difference is that our new CEO is a millennial. It’s real simple. Don’t be fooled. You work for her.

2013 is shaping up to be a big year for these trends, as the future of brick-and-mortar retail depends on them. All have already begun to impact the industry, and each is guaranteed to change the physical shopping experience fundamentally and irreversibly.

Shelley E. Kohan is VP of retail consulting at RetailNext and has more than 20 years of experience in the retail industry, focused on luxury brands within the department and specialty store sector. She is also an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York, in the Fashion Merchandising Management Program. She can be reached at shelley@retailnext.net.


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