By Vinod U S
Tough times are indeed great teachers. The global pandemic and multiple lockdowns have effectively demonstrated that businesses, particularly retailers, are expected to feature a full-fledged digital strategy in place to survive and grow in an economy that runs digitally in the modern era. From the storefronts that are leveraged by consumers to buy the products to behind-the-curtain operations running your business, digital tools and advanced technology are now staple.
As per the reports of Statista, by the time of 2024, total retail sales in the United States of America alone are projected to amount to around $5.94 trillion. The use of advanced digital solutions like digital storefronts and revolutionary devices are shaping the shopping journey experiences of the customers. It assists consumers in making relevant decisions wisely while also allowing the retailers to aid customers and obtain relevant information for making intelligent shopping destinations. You can leverage the ease of creating digital storefronts by service providers like Grozeo or Square.
The Role of Digital Storefronts in Revolutionizing Local Retail
In the modern internet-centric world, SMB retailers are thinking of competing not with their respective peers but also with international players that interpret customer expectations and journeys and are also digitized. As per the latest McKinsey study, it has been observed that a number of retailers and SMBs have already implemented steps to replicate as well as enhance the respective in-store experiences online. It is believed that around 40-50 percent of retailers aim at prioritizing a digital point-of-sale experience or a high-end, digital solution.
Here’s a closer look at how digital storefronts are reshaping local retail:
- Leveling the Playing Field:
Local retailers can now compete with larger retailers by showcasing their products online, making them accessible to a broader audience. This democratizes the marketplace, giving small retailers a shot against big-box stores.
- Increased Visibility:
Digital storefronts allow local businesses to be discovered by new audiences. With proper search engine optimization and online marketing, a local shop can attract customers from all over the region or even globally.
- Convenience for Consumers:
Customers can browse products, read reviews, and make purchases at any time, from anywhere. This convenience can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty.
- Data-driven Decisions:
With online storefronts, retailers gain access to invaluable data about customer preferences, popular products, and sales trends. This data can inform inventory decisions, sales promotions, and more.
- Integration of Online and Offline Experiences:
By using technologies like augmented reality or virtual try-ons, local retailers can bridge the gap between online browsing and in-store experiences.
Digital storefronts can reduce the costs of running a physical store. Retailers can opt for smaller physical locations, or even transition to a fully online model, reducing rent and overhead expenses. Also digital platforms allow retailers to engage with customers through personalized marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, and interactive features.
With a reduction in the need for printed materials like catalogs and brochures, digital storefronts are more environmentally friendly. In times of crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, having an online presence can be a lifeline for local retailers. They can quickly pivot to online sales if in-person shopping becomes restricted.
Local retailers can leverage digital platforms to build online communities, host virtual events, and strengthen ties with their customer base.
Digital Gaining Traction
In the modern world, experience has become the ultimate element. Millennials are known to prefer experience over the product or price itself. This serves to be a major differentiating factor which retailers can consider exploring to drive maximum brand engagement while converting new shoppers into long-term shoppers.
For this to take place in the mindset of convenience store owners, there should be an understanding that there is a requirement for both physical as well as digital assets. There is the need for a brick-and-mortar store for bringing in ample footprint. At the same time, a digital storefront is also needed to fully understand the core touch points responsible for triggering customer experience and leading to quicker orders.
At the same time, another crucial element is driving the transition towards digital storefronts and a hybrid model. As millennials value the overall experience more than the product or price, retailers are expected to accelerate improved brand engagement while increasing the conversion of new shoppers into loyal customers with the help of digital avenues.
With the right foundation in place, digital products and solutions can help in providing ample insights. It also helps retailers to create a highly immersive experience for end customers while powering internal sales and supporting teams with essential tools. In turn, retailers can go ahead with building intelligent solutions that are helpful in identifying new areas of growth and making SMBs the epicenter of the economy at cost-effective rates.
(The author is Mr. Vinod U S, CTO of Grozeo, and the views expressed in this article are his own)