How Innovation is Changing the Brick-and-Mortar Experience

Brick-and-mortar store

COVID drastically changed the way consumers shopped. Between buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS), new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, and self-checkout services, retailers everywhere were bringing innovation into their stores to adapt to all of these changes.

And these new innovative shopping services are here to stay. Consumers prefer this new normal where they have multiple different ways to shop and buy their products. With all of these changes come new challenges in retail real estate, and brick-and-mortar retailers need to keep up in order to stay in the game.

Riding the Wave of Change

“The approach for us has always been about the retail customer. Compared to what they used to be, now the customers at the shopping centers are the focus,” Mickey Papillon, Vice President, Technology Strategy of Irvine Company, said in a webinar with “If the customers are shopping at 8am, that’s a different pattern than from the past, so we have to adjust the way retailers are interacting with customers.” 

To help bring traffic into your brick-and-mortar location, Papillon suggests that retailers gather data and information on customer behavior to make better business decisions. Find out what time frames your customers are shopping and how they like to make purchases. In order to provide the best experiences, you need to make sure you are there for shoppers not when you think they should be there, but when they are actually in your store. 

“One thing we try to stress with groups now is to have a CRM in place to understand who those shoppers are,” Jesse Michael, Senior Vice President, Digital Solutions JLL, said in the webinar. “In 2019, those programs weren’t really set up for retailers, so they don’t have anything to look back on. But because the shopper is adapting, groups are having to put in CRM programs at a robust scale to understand who their shoppers are and when they are visiting.”

What Are the Benefits of a CRM?

A CRM for retail stores comes with many unique benefits that help you track, understand, and manage your customers while providing a better overall experience for them throughout the buyer’s journey. Here are some of the main benefits of retail CRM software:

  • Personalize Your Approach. Today, the key differentiator between a positive and a negative shopping experience is all about the personalization of the interaction. In order to personalize a shopping experience, retailers need to leverage data accrued from customers and use that to inform their messaging towards customers, including whom to target for a particular campaign.
  • Improve Customer Service. Responding to customer queries or complaints is extremely important, but can also be difficult to manage. CRM software helps centralize everything, so an email will never go missing or unnoticed and customer queries can be addressed according to their priority.
  • Increase Customer Retention. Retaining customers is crucial to keeping your retail location open, and using a CRM will give you the chance to plot out your customers’ buyer’s journey and how they are responding in the post-purchase phase. Use the data gathered from customer purchases to create more targeted campaigns that offer a more personalized experience.

Testing New Concepts in Your Store

“The experiences we all have can be very helpful in understanding what the customer is looking for,” Papillon said. “It provides you with intuition to test different things — so whether it’s a new service you’re thinking about offering or a new concept, you can quickly figure out if it’s something that is good for your customers or not.” 

Aside from putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, Papillon offers some other factors to think about before launching a new concept in your store:

  • Think about whether this new concept will be interesting in the long term. Don’t risk losing time and money on a project that will only keep shoppers intrigued for a month. 
  • Look at the feasibility of the project. It may be a good initiative, but can you roll it out? Be sure to have enough resources in place before getting too far with your ideas. 
  • As much as you may be thinking about the benefits of the new concept, it’s also important to think about failure. How badly will the brand suffer if the idea fails? Not every concept has to be a complete game-changer, but be sure you can still survive with failure.

Balancing Your Concept and the Latest Trends

It can be exciting to hop on the latest social media or phenomenon trend, but always think before deploying anything in your store. The problem with joining in on the latest trends is that they are usually around for a short period of time. 

“While in 2020 Peloton was huge, in 2023, it’s pickleball. Will it have a long-lasting impact, or will it be gone in another year,” Michael said. “If you’re getting a younger demographic coming to your stores, then obviously you want something different to draw their attention. Just be creative with what you’re doing and not gravitate toward just one hot button topic.”

“It all comes down to having a plan. Look at different concepts and technologies that you can potentially use to benefit, and use that to take it to the next step. Test it quickly, and if it’s not working, that’s OK, but fail fast and move on. These can be valuable learning experiences,” Papillon said.