Mass closings of brick and mortar businesses all over the UK have prompted the media to forecast “the end of the High Street.”

In 2017, more than 5,800 UK stores closed their doors, as did 10,000 more the following year. Some industry insiders say that the so-called legacy retailers have abandoned their stores, leaving charity shops, bookmakers, and everything-for-a-pound stores to crowd the town centers. But even the discount chains are struggling now. Pound world went into administration very recently, closing over 300 stores.

Meanwhile, US retailers are experiencing a similar problem across the pond, where 12,000 physical stores have closed since 2010. 

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to get into the retail game, you might be thinking that this is a terrible time to do so.

But there’s a flipside to the equation.. Many other major retailers have managed to survive the so-called “retail apocalypse,” and even thrived in the current market. So what do they have that others don’t? They have figured out some creative solutions to the major challenges the industry faces. Below, we will summarize four important steps retailers must take to build a better business and thrive in the current competitive economy.

1. Stay on-trend by tracking customer shopping behavior


It’s easy to look at the current state of the retail industry and see it as a battle between e-commerce and physical stores. But the reality is that technology can actually help your business thrive by giving you insight into your customers’ shopping behavior. How and where do your customers shop? Are they researching their purchases in advance? Do they shop sales or participate in rewards programs? The answers to all of these questions and more can be obtained by using software to track and analyze customer behavior.

Invest in software that uses permission-based tools such as cookies, device IDs, IP mapping and Geo-location to give you the information you need about your customers.

2. Encourage customer loyalty with a CRM


Bringing in new customers is great, but there is nothing more important for growing your retail business than keeping the customers you’ve already got. And this is another area in which technology can help. That’s where your CRM comes in.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a piece of software that businesses use to store information about customers, manage their interactions with them, and automate certain sales, marketing, and customer service processes. Some of its functions include storing customer information, including contact information, purchase history, and a list of interactions between your business and that customer. Using that information, the system can generate detailed reports and automate actions that are personalised to them, to help you bring that customer back to your store again.

For example, a pet supply shop’s CRM might recognize that a particular customer buys a certain brand of dog food at around the end of every month. A few days before that, the CRM could trigger an email to that customer with a coupon for 25% off dog treats with the purchase of their preferred dog food brand.

If one day the customer suddenly buys puppy food in addition to their usual purpose, the CRM might trigger an email to the customer congratulating them on their new family member, including a list of products that families often need for new puppies.

3. Retain your best employees


Retail has one of the highest employee turnover rates of any industry. That can be extremely expensive. One study found that it costs an average of 33% of an employee’s annual salary to replace that employee if he or she quits.

The good news is, retaining your top talent doesn’t have to be difficult. Offer competitive benefits to your staff, including part-time employees. Provide regular trainings and continuing education opportunities. Allow your staff to work flexible schedules and encourage regular breaks to recharge and fend off burnout. And be sure to recognize their hard work with frequent praise, recognition, and rewards.

4. Recognize e-commerce as an opportunity


You might’ve heard horror stories about bricks and mortar businesses going under in the wake of online giants like Amazon. But the truth is, most people still prefer to shop and purchase products in store. They do, however, research their purchases online in advance.

So keep your website updated. Make it easy for customers to find you and learn about your products. Talk to a marketing professional about search engine optimization (SEO) for mobile and voice searches. 

Your customers are changing the way they shop. The key to keeping up with this is meeting them where they are.

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