Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Using E-Commerce Tactics to Save Stores

One of my favorite spots in Milwaukee is Downtown Books: a slightly disorganized shop overstuffed with discount movies, one-of-a-kind books and a couple of cats wandering around. It kills me that mega-giants like the e-commerce platform giant Amazon are taking down these little bookstores.

Imagine my surprise when I first heard about Amazon’s plans to create a brick-and-mortar bookstore, Amazon Books.

When I finally checked out the nearby location in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, I felt like I was inside the website—hyper-organization, modern and minimalist decor and the Amazon logo peppered throughout. It was like the soulless shell of a bookstore.

Despite this, Amazon has brought about some clever innovations to the brick-and-mortar store.

Amazon slyly uses customer data to lure book lovers into making a purchase. Each book has a plaque with a user review and average rating. To stay in the store, books must have a 4.0 rating or higher.

By using data to give the customer exactly what he or she wants, Amazon Books can be (and probably already is) a thriving business in the real world. Other physical stores should follow Amazon’s lead and use e-commerce tactics to save themselves from being wiped out by their online competitors.

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Data, Data, Data

Web analytics is the lifeforce of the e-commerce world. Online retailers track shoppers to learn what pages they’re checking out, how long they’re staying on that page and more. That data is then used to boost the user experience, tweak the website layout and change calls to action.

Brick-and-mortar stores can now extract similar data. Software platforms such as Aislelabs Flow allow retailers to measure and understand customer traffic. This product allows buyers to learn who is a first time or repeat visitor to the store, how long customers stay in the store and what products they gravitate to.

This can lead to more sales and smarter decisions. E-commerce is thriving because these online stores have the data to personalize a shopper’s experience and learn what will bring them back for more. Now, physical stores have access to the same information.

Get Social

These days, pretty much any business needs to be on social media to stay alive. A social media presence gives a business a platform to interact with consumers. Bringing in outside help can allow this opportunity to be optimized.

Physical stores can marry online shopping with the real world.

A social media marketing company can help a retailer up its social media game. Businesses lacking the expertise to produce effective content can utilize one of these firms for services such as account management, content creation and consumer engagement. Social media marketing companies sometimes also provide search engine optimization services to improve a website’s ranking.

With a social media presence comes social media reviews. With the right approach, retailers can improve brand perception and possible reverse bad impressions:

“According to a recent newBrandAnalytics study, a 10 percent increase in connection with online reviewers results in a 23 percent increase in loyalty. Also, getting in touch with reviewers and resolving issues can help reduce attrition: according to BeaconStac, 34 percent of people delete their original review if retailers respond quickly.”

By utilizing all this data, e-commerce stores provide consumers with the ultimate customer service representative. Websites can keep track of what the shopper wants and learns what similar products would interest them. But online retailers are missing the human touch.

That’s where the brick-and-mortar store can come in. Physical stores can marry online shopping with the real world. Stores can set up kiosks or plaques with user ratings for each product, as Amazon Books does, to keep consumer trust flowing from online to the real store.

Don’t Be Afraid of Change

E-commerce stores are always changing. That’s how they find what works. Content and website design are constantly being tweaked to find what consumers respond best to.

Physical stores need to take the same approach. Changing the organization of the store, tweaking the decor or allowing employees to experiment might seem small at first. But one of these little changes might strike a chord with consumers.

Amazon took down a big chunk of physical bookstores, yet they decided to return to the medium. There is clearly something about the brick-and-mortar stores that keep people coming back for more.

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