Just a couple of years ago, industry analysts sounded the death knell for the high street. Online stores were going to dominate the retail space for the rest of this decade, as well as the next, and physical stores that didn’t quickly make the jump online would become footnotes of history, like Woolworths.
But over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a sea change. Physical businesses aren’t going online; rather online businesses are suddenly gaining corporeal form. Amazon, Bonobos and Warby Parker – online retail giants – have all now opened physical stores.
It’s a trend that’s gotten many smaller ecommerce businesses asking whether they should follow suit, opening their own physical stores and merging them with their online digital experience.
Here are some tips for ecommerce stores who want to take the plunge and open their own high street store.
Invest Heavily In Your Team
When an online retailer comes to the high street, it’s a novelty. People love the fact that something that once couldn’t be touched has been made manifest and is actually somewhere that they can go. It feels like an adventure. But without the right staff on hand to make the experience feel more like Disneyland and less like the Post Office, your business could end up falling flat. The staff you hire need to understand that when an online store comes to the high street, it’s a special occasion worth celebrating. It’s also a chance to show that yes, you can treat customers just as well as the other shops on the high street, even though you’re new to the game.
Integrate Online And Offline Experiences
As an online retailer, you’re in a unique position. You’re able to use ERP retail software to keep track of your customers both online and when they’re in your store. This means, potentially, that you can offer them unique services that most offline shops can’t.
For instance, you could offer specific customers special in-store prices through the website. Or you could tell customers that their local store is now stocking a particular item of clothing they put in their online shopping cart but for whatever reason, decided not to buy. Many large enterprises, including Top Shop, are already using similar systems.
Develop Your Community Strategy
When a new business arrives in town, some people can be hostile. It’s fine that you’re online, but are you really able to offer people the shopping experience they expect on the high street?
Part of any PR strategy is a strong community strategy. A good community strategy means meeting with local people on their own turf and doing something the drives loyalty. Increasing loyalty can be as simple as offering free sample products or sponsoring a local event with your brand name plastered all over it.
Go Cheap First, Then Invest Heavily
It’s not cheap setting up a physical store: you’ll need a significant amount of capital to make it happen. What’s more, things won’t always go as you planned. Start with a relatively cheap fit out first, and then, if you’re successful, invest in more expensive shop features.