Why Brick and Mortar Retailers Should Embrace the Holidays and Not Fear Them

By Lisa Katz, Vice President, Customer Strategy at Merkle

Winning in retail is a lot like relationship success: Your objective is to make meaningful and long-lasting connections. This is especially true around the holiday season — you meet a lot of people, gather information, evaluate the experience, and then use the knowledge you’ve gathered to determine who are the best prospects.

Can ‘brick and mortar’ retailers build these types of relationships or should you believe all the talk about their demise? I contend that the term ‘brick and mortar’ is a rather unfitting characterization of retailers with physical locations. It suggests they do not sell products online (which they do), but more importantly implies they are incapable of change. In terms of change in retail, what does that change look like? It means moving fast, staying relevant by knowing your targets well; anticipating trends, creating unique experiences, and cultivating loyalty. Retailers with physical stores are better positioned than they realize to make this transformation.

  • You sell direct. You own the customer data and control the customer relationship.
  • You have a space to showcase products and create memorable experiences.
  • You have online and mobile commerce to create a seamless multi-channel experience.

Show off your assets

Even though it would be nice to shed those last few pounds before the holiday party, just wear your highest heels and some attitude. Focus on what’s in front of you. In other words, for physical retailers, embrace your space and use what you have.

It’s a fact that store traffic is a challenge facing physical retailers. People are looking increasingly toward their laptops and phones for convenient shopping, but if given good enough reason, they like to get off the couch. Just look at Starbucks, it’s always crowded. Why? It provides quick service, a place to gather, and a tasty beverage. People recognize when a brand and physical atmosphere are worth the extra bit of effort to have an experience and consume a product.

Consumers can tell you a lot between visiting the store, browsing the website, writing product reviews, and posting on social media. By tying the data points together, you will get to know your customer better.

Be yourself

Keep in mind some “rules” to creating a positive connection:

  • Establish Trust. Consider Everlane, who’s e-commerce success was built on its transparent business practices. This has led to the opening of their first retail location. Integrating trust into the consumer experience takes a clear, consistent vision.
  • Smile. What does excellent service mean? It’s different for everyone, and knowing your customers’ preferences will help inform the best experience. As an example, at the Apple Store reserving a time slot online to see an expert in store creates an integrated and hassle-free experience.
  • Have fun. Flying Tiger Copenhagen describes visiting its stores as a “treasure hunt.” Coupled with affordable price points (and some kitsch), this creates a festive experience.
  • Keep it simple. When visiting Lululemon, it’s clear that the folks who work there love the brand. They are downright happy to help and make shopping painless. The store’s merchandising displays the product assortment in an organized way that makes it easy to navigate.
  • Show your smarts. While a virtual chat may now be commonplace, consumers expect expert assistance along with personal attention when in stores. Sephora leads the way in communicating product information visually in stores, offering individual makeovers, and training highly knowledgeable sales associates.

Ultimately the consumer conclusion must be: “ I came to the store, and it was worth the trip.”

Can I see you again?

Consumers can tell you a lot between visiting the store, browsing the website, writing product reviews, and posting on social media.

By tying the data points together, you will get to know your customer better. This will transform into a relationship that can grow. There will be opportunities to create more meaningful moments along the journey.

With these benefits, retailers with physical locations should embrace this festive and busy time of year! While shopping activity is at its peak, there’s an opportunity to add to the proverbial “little black book,” better known as your consumer database. This will lead to new relationships to cultivate as well as an opportunity to reconnect with those you already know.

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