The 4 Big-Picture Hurdles Modern Retailers Face in the Digital Age


Convention wisdom would tell us that traditional retail stores are going the way of the dinosaur, right?

Not so fast.

The fact remains that digital sales still only represent a small chunk of retail at large, with some stats pointing to brick-and-mortar stores boasting ten times the business of e-commerce brands.

That being said, the downturn of in-person sales year-over-year is telling for both current and prospective retail businesses. As such, having a keen understanding of the problems today’s brick-and-mortar retailers face is key to both standing out and staying competitive in a space that’s increasingly online.

But what challenges are we talking about? Below we’ve broken down the four hurdles retailers should actively address if they want their stores to survive in 2018 and beyond.

Competing with E-commerce Brands

Whereas the public at large was timid toward online shopping, times have changed. E-commerce giants like Amazon are often cited for putting traditional stores out of business left and right. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores like Wal-Mart and Target have made their online stores an integral part of their sales.

For example, one of the most powerful aspects of e-commerce is the ability to track trends in terms of hot products or timing deals to perfection. To quote Reciprocity Labs: “retailers must compete by knowing their customers and offering the right well, at the right time, at the right price.”

And so the key to overcoming this challenge for smaller retailers? Apply the principles of e-commerce to their own stores in-person where possible thanks to customer data.

 Creating a True Customer Experience

Although Amazon’s been gaining steam for almost two decades now, online shopping is truthfully young in the grand scheme of things. People are still accustomed to the idea of going to a physical location, especially for niche products, which in a way provides an edge for brands who’ve embraced the age of the customer experience.

From eye-popping aesthetics to providing customers something to look forward to for checking out your shop, experiences represent something online stores have yet to truly emulate.

Mastering Social Media

Social media platforms like Instagram have become the bread and butter of e-commerce brands thanks to ad-targeting and user-generated content. Showing off customer photos and using them ad billboards online is a brilliant move that’s creating dedicated followings for stores both big and small.

Smaller stores can certainly create their own tribe of social followers, granted they’re advertising incentives to gain followers. Frequent discounts and promos that involve hashtags are incredibly common, for example. In a sense, smaller brands might have an easier time gaining a social following versus big box stores whose ad budgets are being allocated elsewhere.

Consistency in Terms of Talent

The high turnover in retail is well-documented, whereas e-commerce brands have the advantage of effectively outsourcing aspects of their business (think: sales and marketing) without missing a beat. Local retailers should strive to retain talent for the sake of better understanding customers and likewise providing a friendly experience at the same time.

Despite popular belief, there’s still most definitely a place for brick-and-mortar businesses to thrive in the digital age. By better understanding the aforementioned challenges and how to handle them, such businesses can find ways to remain competitive and carve out their niche in the world of retail.

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