As seen on Forbes.
Consumers, spoiled with easy internet shopping and fast, free delivery aren’t headed to the stores to go shopping like they used to this Thanksgiving. But the stores aren’t giving up, instead they are fighting back.
Retailers call them the physical stores, brick and mortars and they have been hammered by Amazon. Foot traffic is down. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 90% of consumers are Amazon shoppers. That’s pretty much everyone. 40% of this group confirmed that they are shopping at fewer real stores. 20% of these Amazon shoppers have cut back their shopping at other e-commerce sites and 10% say they don’t go anywhere else.
PwC retail and consumer leader Steve Barr said, “Retailers are still able to compete in a few ways like creating an emotional experience for consumers.” He noted that stores have stepped up their game when it comes to presentation and display to draw in customers by enhancing the shopping trip.
Barr said retailers have also improved their buy online – pickup in store or BOPUS effort. “Last Christmas, it was new and this holiday it’s like BOPUS 2.0. Expect to see dedicated parking spots, clearly marked pickup spots and exclusive checkout lanes.” Barr noted that there are still products that people want to touch and feel and they can only do that in a brick and mortar store.
One thing Amazon doesn’t have is Santa. “Every year, we’re coming in earlier and earlier with our Santa experience,” said Denise Conroy, President and Chef Executive Officer of Iconic Group. Malls and standalone stores hire Iconic to create those shopping experiences that draw in millennial shoppers. The Santa experience at the mall is now a big display that keeps the people in line occupied and if you don’t want to wait, you can book a reservation online.
Some select Macerich mall properties now have a Santa HQ that features an HDTV holiday experience. Guests can customize their individual experience by using augmented reality to view Santa’s Workshop and Observatory in a magical way. Visitors can download the Elf-Ray Vision app or use a provided tablet to discover the enchanting world of Santa HQ in stunning 2D and 3D digital scenes. There’s a sweepstakes and a chance to meet HGTV stars.
Conroy said that isn’t just malls that want a Santa. Standalone stores like Toy R Us and race car tracks want a Santa experience too. “It’s all about entertainment now,” she said. “We’re serving a millennial mall.”
Stores are also fighting back by empowering their sales associates with more information and making it possible to step in front of the cash register. “Customers are more knowledgeable than sales people these days, “ said Ali Asaria, chief executive officer at retail software company Tulip Retail. His company can develop an endless aisle for retailers.
Sales associates armed with a tablet can approach customers on the selling floor with more information than may be typically available online. They can also close the sale by either using store inventory or taking product from the warehouse and ship it directly, “We turn them into product experts,” said Asaria. He also added that the data helps the retailer learn what sales are happening and when, which helps them make better staffing decisions.