5 ways brick-and-mortar retailers can thrive in today's mobile world


Create an "omnichannel" experience and build customer loyalty with these tips.

Are customers coming to your brick-and-mortar store to get free advice, examine the merchandise and maybe even try out products but leaving to buy online? That's a trend called "showrooming" – and it's not going away.

Give consumers what they want – the ability to shop in person and online.

"It's much better to embrace this change in the way consumers buy things than to resist or resent it," says Melanie Alavi, a UPS marketing manager. She shared five keys to capitalizing on what's being called "omnichannel" retailing:

  1. Build your own web presence. "You need to be where your customers are, and increasingly they are on the web," Alavi says. The Internet levels the playing field for small retailers, and an e-commerce site is essential, she says. Evidence: UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™, a new comScore study commissioned by UPS, indicates seven out of 10 online shoppers cite the web as their preferred method of access to their favorite retailer. What's more, one in 10 e-commerce dollars is now spent via a mobile device, like a smartphone or a tablet. More than half of consumers who use tablets look for coupons, compare prices and research features at least weekly, says the study.

  2. Expand into social media. "According to the study, 84 percent of consumers use at least one social media site, and 77 percent of those use Facebook," Alavi says. Twitter ranked second at 26 percent. "You can use Facebook to engage with customers and offer special deals for Facebook fans," she says. The UPS Pulse study shows that 66 percent of Facebook users have "liked" a retailer to qualify for a special promotion or incentive. "Small retailers can get a lot of bang for their buck, because 86 percent of those who ‘like' you watch for retailer updates."

  3. Allow in-store pickups and returns. "Consumers who buy online rank the ability to return merchandise at a convenient local store as a top factor driving their decision to shop with a retailer," Alavi says. And 44 percent say the ability to pick up their purchase nearby ranks at the top of their list. "This goes to the heart of integrating the cross-channel experience and making it as seamless as possible," she says.

  4. Use coupons and other incentives. Exclusive offers for Facebook friends isn't the only way smaller retailers can leverage their online presence. "Another viable option for small retailers is to use location-based ‘deal' services like Groupon, LivingSocial or Yelp," Alavi says. In the UPS Pulse study, half of the shoppers use such services and 60 percent of those shoppers would like to have deals sent to them by retailers.

    "You are ahead of the game if you can push a coupon or promotion to a smartphone or tablet," she says. "These days, any retailer selling direct to consumers needs a mobile strategy – and there's a lot you can do, even if you aren't ready to create your own smartphone app. Just having a website that supports and reformats for easy reading on a smartphone or tablet is a big plus."

  5. Enhance cross-channel convenience. "In the future, consumers are going to be expecting 24/7 access to whatever they need, whenever they need it, and will want it shipped to them on their terms, where they want it," Alavi says. "They are looking for cross-channel convenience, more choices and more control."

    "UPS MyChoice® is just one example. It lets customers control where and when packages will be delivered, held for pickup or dropped off at The UPS Store®," she says. "Convenience across all your channels is the real key to engaging customers, making it easier for them to do business with you, and increasing revenue."



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