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Five Key Lessons for Retailers to Stay Ahead of the Digital Game

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Natasha Binar

The changing landscape of retail represents a challenge, not only for department stores like Barney’s (who recently filed for bankruptcy) but for many brick-and-mortar retailers struggling to change their retail strategy to please the changing tastes of new generation consumers. 

Marc Schumacher of Liganova argued that retailers should not be measuring their success by turnover per square meter. “What we need to look at is the experience level per cubic meter,” he stated at numerous events including the K5 Retail conference in Berlin. Some big players such as Apple have already adopted this strategy, offering multiple-screens showcasing their products in-store as well as instant buttons allowing buyers to order products straight to their doorstep. 

Stuttgart-based department store Breuninger, recently opened its doors to a gaming festival, hosting Hologate – a platform where up to four players can compete against each other in games with VR technology in a three-dimensional world. The Breuninger façade was revitalized by augmented reality segments many times before; and now VR gaming seems to be their key to success in reaching out to a younger, digitally-savvy audience. 

However, is entertaining customers the only way to survive in an uneasy retail climate? In the realm of fashion e-commerce,  it’s all about connecting with your brand anywhere, any time, on any device. 

5 key lessons to improve your retail strategy

Create a link between the physical and digital experience

Bonprix, a subsidiary of the Otto Group, is one of the top online fashion retailers in Germany, most recently generating annual sales of €1.56B. This spring, the opening of a branch in Hamburg allowed the online and offline shopping experiences to merge, as the store was labeled as “the revolution of shopping” in German media. 

The shop utilized QR-code based shopping and scanning, with a partner app that selected items in the correct sizes and detected products almost immediately in-store – promising a maximum waiting time of five minutes. At the end of the customers’ journey, they can pick up the packages they have ordered online and have them delivered to the store. Those who order in the store can pick up their bags directly at checkout without having to wait in line. Even the dressing room experience has been made-over at Bonprix: customers can change the dressing room lighting from ‘indoor’ to ‘beach’ or ‘stage lighting’ for a more “instagrammable” look.

Use insights and data to create a personalized customer experience

Part of successful omnichannel retailing is knowing how to take advantage of data to create a personalized customer experience. How can you use your customers’ preferences and buying history, for example, to generate personalized offers and suggestions?

 

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H&M provides an engaging omnichannel example, blurring the experience between online and in-store. The installation of smart dressing rooms and mirrors in the brand’s flagship store in New York enable customers to interact with the mirror display exclusively via voice and facial recognition. Users can use the Mirror Screen Cover selfies to create “My H&M Cover” and experience fashion inspiration. The digital system also gives customers individual style recommendations that can be purchased locally.

86% of all selfie-taking customers in the past 12 months have also scanned the newsletter QR code, 10% of which have subscribed to the H&M newsletter, according to the company’s press release.

Monitor your brand message

A successful retail strategy maintains consistent brand messaging and style across all brand channels, whether online, via social media or offline. That way the customer knows what to expect, and recognizes the brand and its story. Since social media platforms usually go beyond a brand’s own marketing materials and branch into broader, inspirational content, the challenge is, therefore, controlling how the brand message is presented and spread. 

The key? Engaging with the right influencers. About You is a platform well known in Germany for their influencer marketing strategy – by not only collaborating with big names such as Eva Padberg, Stefanie Giesinger and Lena Gercke but also going beyond classic product ads. Influencers have their own shops on the platform, and design and name collections such as: “Lena Gercke X About You” or “LeGer” – the latter was launched at AYFW in Berlin in July.

Connect your customers seamlessly through all channels

The challenge for retailers is to connect with customers on mobile – by converting social media interactions into sales. 

E-commerce fashion player, Zalando has been setting the stage for a new style of retail strategy, opening beauty lounges all over the country in which Zalando’s “Unleash Your Beauty” campaign is celebrated unveiling “a modern and liberating viewpoint on beauty.” The brand offers an in-store beauty camp experience for everyone “regardless of age, gender and social conventions”.

Become part of your customers’ community 

Your community isn’t just limited to your physical space – instead, allow it to extend beyond your storefront. When you reach your community through multiple touchpoints – such as a dedicated newsletter or a series of engaging events introducing new designers – your community and relationships with your customers will strengthen.

Online shopping platform BestSecret, announced its first store opening in Frankfurt offering its members to “enjoy an unparalleled shopping experience offline”, with a diverse program and VIP guests. The brand teamed up with Grazia to bring highlights such as personal style consultations, and a personalized cover of the magazine, tackling the desire to socialize whilst shopping. The brand has even announced the feature of an international music act to keep the guests entertained and increase the time they spend in-store. 

Whichever retail strategy works for you, it is about connecting with your customers, and delivering what they desire. Even they don’t know it yet. 

Find out the retail strategies that work the best for your brand

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Natasha BinarMarketing & Communications Excecutive - Germany, Switzerland, Holland

London-Berlin-Munich. With her background in media management, Natasha launched projects for creative industries in East London, collaborating with the finest British talents. She also worked as Producer with British Sky Broadcasting in developing and implementing their content strategy for Sky Interactive. In Berlin, Natasha continued her consultancy work focussing on business development, digital strategies and branding. Her first book Berlin Catwalks has been released in 2011. Natasha is a senior lecturer in the Academy of Fashion and Design in Munich. She also holds a Master’s degree in Organizational and Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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