The transition for the brick and mortar storefront has been hugely exciting for a whole host of reasons:
The need to pay top dollar to rent space in a mall or heavy-traffic area, hire full-time staff, and catch window shopping customers eyes with immaculately curated glass displays presented an impossible barrier for most aspiring brands and entrepreneurs to overcome.
The e-commerce revolution has democratized the economy in a way thought impossible 30 years ago, using technologies that were unthinkable 20 years ago, at a scale unimaginable even 10 years ago.
The nosedive in operational costs has allowed e-commerce brands to focus their efforts on customer acquisition, product development, and excellent customer service.
What is often overlooked, however, is what has been lost from the traditional retail – and particularly luxury retail – experience.
E-commerce has allowed small but mighty emerging brands to punch far above their weight, putting out exceptional products, and selling the customer new high-end and luxury purchases – a transaction that would have previously been impossible without tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing, PR, and brand awareness efforts.
Think about Gymshark, Allbirds, or Colourpop.
The luxury retail brands that used to dominate shopping malls across America have woken up, and gotten the memo. Tools like Shopify have empowered retailers of all sizes, big and small, to compete for online traffic in the way that they used to compete for foot traffic.
If e-commerce brands want to continue to capitalize on the new, online economy, they need to take lessons about what was right about the old, brick and mortar economy.
A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name
One thing that kept customers coming back to their favourite brick and mortar stores was the feeling that someone at the store knew them personally, and would take care of them personally.
Some of the functions of a friendly sales associate can be replaced by a chat-bot, or live-chat agent, but the feeling that a human being – rather than a faceless company – stands behind the purchase is much more difficult to replace.
E-commerce brands that want to keep their customers coming back need to find a way to make a human connection, and trigger the psychological feeling of comfort that comes from buying from another person, rather than a machine.
E-Commerce brands are also missing opportunities for up-sell and cross-sell.
The deluge of data now available to retailers when they sell to you online has allowed them to better target their offers to you, but it has also rendered them totally apathetic to the negative effects of spamming you.
Advantage: Brick and mortar.
Personable, commissioned sales representatives knew that once you were in their store, the hardest part of acquiring a customer was over, and that the longer they kept you in the store, the more likely you were to buy something else.
Bought a shirt? Here are some matching ties. Bought a guitar? How about an amplifier? A tuner? A set of replacement strings?
E-commerce companies have a massive edge at their disposal when it comes to the data that they have about their customers purchasing habits, but they waste that rich data by emailing you over and over until you unsubscribe, or running ads that you rapidly scroll past to get to pictures of your ex-girlfriend’s dinner.
They know that those emails have an abysmally low open rate (when they make it past spam filters, that is), and an even lower click-through rate.
They are basically saying “you’ve purchased from us once, and in the case of 99% of our customers, we’re satisfied with the relationship ending there.” Why would these marketing managers ever aim so low?
Can you imagine a commissioned salesperson deciding that it was totally fine to let 90% of customers leave the store without even hearing their pitch for a cross-sell or up-sell? Neither can I.
Big mistake. Big! Huge!
The last thing that you want to do, when running an E-commerce retail store, is turn your advantages into disadvantages, or accept that with the benefits of automation, data, and low overhead must de facto come the sacrifice of impersonal customer experience, low retention, and poor customer stewardship.
The days of strolling through a mall and window shopping while taking in the smells of the food court and sounds of the toy stores may be behind us, but the customer acquisition, retention, and engagement strategies that served big brick and mortar retail so well for so many decades shouldn’t be.
With data and automation at your fingertips, margins are higher, everywhere is local, and the opportunities for high-touch personalization are endless.
Get in touch to learn how you can turn your data into personal, handwritten cards that will get opened, read, and activate your customers.
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