Time & Tide: Get human and compete with e-tailers
Convenience is a critical factor in the rise of e-commerce, with customers increasingly being won over by the likes of next-day and same-day delivery.
The High Street has been faltering, but there is a social aspect to visiting a store during your free time that shopping online cannot compete with. The face-to-face interaction of chatting with staff and the experience of walking through a store, actually touching the products, is key to survival.
RTIH asked Time & Tide, an Edinburgh-based luxury interior retailer which recently opened its seventh High Street outlet, to share the tips they have employed to fight the tide of online.
Authenticity is what people look for in a brand, particularly as we live in an increasingly digital world. Setting up as an online retailer can certainly afford you many luxuries - reductions in rent etc. - and we certainly recommend all brands combine both online and offline.
However, customer service is often lacking with these e-tailers. You only have to look at Twitter and the complaints around the clothing companies to see they are doing it wrong. This is where your business can gain the upper hand, seizing every opportunity to communicate with customers, ask questions, invite them for special occasions and thank them for their purchases. Similarly, conversations can tell you far more than surveys.
Create a unique environment
You need to offer an experience to set your brand apart from those online. Create an experience that is bound to entice your customers. For those with enough space, provide seating and relaxation areas; perhaps partner with an independent coffee retailer to offer refreshments at discount prices.
Topshop, for example, are leading the way with this idea in their flagship London store. While shopping for new clothes, customers can also get a haircut in the unisex salon, encouraging them to stay a little longer and, likely, spend more.
There’s not one of us that doesn’t love a little snoop every now and then. An exclusive look behind-the-scenes of your brand, however, could encourage someone to pay you a visit. You could offer an insight into the workings of the store, following a staff member in their day-to-day life.
Alternatively, those promoting local and organic products could showcase the process of those products entering the store. Not only are you promoting your actual shop but combining your online and offline marketing to expand reach, especially if you share a video on social media.
Product launches are a brilliant excuse to invite the local community to your store and to begin building relationships with other companies in the area. For instance, host a ‘party’ for a new range, with free food and drink to encourage footfall. Once your prospects are in the store, you can showcase the unique brand personality and truly take advantage of face-to-face interaction.
It also doesn’t hurt to, perhaps, offer an incentive for the first 50 customers, such as buy one get one free or a discount. Everyone loves to be treated like royalty.
Establish a local presence
As mentioned above, a traditional store provides you with the opportunity to become a local champion. People love to support independent stores and boost their local economy, and you can use this to your advantage.
Get involved with local activities and events - perhaps have your own stall showcasing your products - or even sponsor those same events and local teams. Start small, build your customer base and then look to expand. If you attempt to cater to everyone’s needs, you are, essentially, throwing money away.
Start a loyalty programme
Online retailers regularly use loyalty programmes, so why shouldn’t you? Take the example of your local coffee shop and follow suit. You don’t have to do much, but simply offer a free product - not of great value - on the customer’s tenth visit. While it may not be much, your consumers have something to work towards. Loyalty cards stored in purses and wallets are also a permanent reminder of your brand.
Ultimately, the end is not nigh for the High Street. Online retailers undoubtedly have a strong foothold in the market, but consumers are still looking for that personal touch. In an age where people are turning away from Facebook and other social media, you can capitalise and get out in the community to promote your brand.