Part 1: Learning from the Holiday Season

The 2017 holiday season saw total sales rise by 4.9 percent. This is the largest increase in year-over-year sales since 2011. While consumers shop via many channels, the largest gainer was e-commerce. Online sales increased 18.1% over the previous year.

Astound Commerce performed a thorough review of holiday shopping seasons to understand how consumers shop and what experiences retailers and brands offer. The research included a survey of 1,000 consumers and an analysis of mobile, social media, and physical stores. This research revealed key shopping habits and trends that companies should be aware of. This research will be presented as a series of three parts for Total Retail. We’ll dive into the data and explore the role of the physical shop in today’s shopping environment.

The Physical Store’s Role

According to Astound Commerce’s consumer survey, 73% of shoppers will spend more than 25% on and 1 in 4 will purchase over 50% of their products through Many strategists are pondering when the physical store will be abandoned, with Amazon’s shadow hanging over all its competitors.

Amazon is aware of this, despite the eagerly awaited opening of its first AmazonGo store. There is still hope to save brick-and-mortar.

The S.O.S. The S.O.S. report, Save Our Stores, examines what makes brick-and-mortar stores attractive and successful. We analyzed 23 metrics related to in-store experiences for retailers from eight consumer categories during the 2017 holiday season to determine what makes or breaks brick-and mortar stores. These are the four questions you should ask to ensure your brick-and mortar retail success.

Learn more:

1. What retail shopping experiences are you most inspiring?

For a more engaging and immersive shopping experience, consumers prefer to shop in stores than online. 73% of people visit stores simply to feel and touch the products. We found the most inspiring in-store experiences to be those with passionate, enthusiastic sales associates, unique products and welcoming displays.

This was achieved by Nike, Sephora, and Apple. They all displayed appealing signage, inviting environments, and appealing merchandising strategies.

Physical locations should make products stand out with a brand-reflective point of view and well-designed, exciting designs. Incorporate your loyalty strategy in your brick-and mortar store experience to encourage new participation. To increase loyalty and strengthen brand connection, train associates to question shoppers about their shopping experiences.

2. What is the store’s promotional value?

Brands often trade inspiring experiences in-store for promotional ones. Brands should use brick-and-mortar locations to promote their products, but they need to be strategic.

Instead, you should offer unique products and deals that increase traffic, create excitement, and ensure greater margins. When it comes to promotions, pay attention to what has worked online and copy them in-store. Signage can be used to enhance the customer experience, not just to advertise specials.

3. Are you service-oriented?

Research shows that 64% of customers will abandon a store if they receive poor service. Brands must offer exceptional service that adds value and keeps brick-and-mortar stores viable. If they don’t, customers will leave.

This begins with properly staffing the locations (with floor support and not just cashiers or stockers). To build stronger relationships, floor staff should be proactive and helpful by engaging customers before they need help. Customers will follow the example of staff who are enthusiastic about the merchandise and friendly.

This section of our research revealed clear leaders. Amazon, Coach, Crate and Barrel, and Barnes & Noble all performed admirably, providing staffing with knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly associates.

4. What is your overall efficiency?

Brick-and-mortar shops must be efficient in order to attract customers, given the ease of shopping online. Long checkout lines are a sure way to drive customers back online and possibly to your competitors. It’s evident that in-store brands have learned this lesson, but could still improve.

Keep this in mind when you are designing your in-store experience. To speed up transactions, ensure that cashiers are available to assist customers. It’s worth having a dedicated customer service representative who is only responsible for returning products to help shoppers save time. Anything that can reduce the time spent waiting in line and allows you to browse products more efficiently will improve your shopping experience in-store.

Brick-and-mortar is not dead. But brands that create an engaging and exciting experience for customers will make it worthwhile to visit your store. 2018 should be the year you re-engage customers in your physical stores, encouraging them to shop across all channels.

Parts two and three will focus on holiday shopping results. I will also dive into the mobile channel and social media to see how customers shop during holidays. Retail success is dependent on the mobile channel, and social media offers a unique way to connect with customers.


Sears Partners with Amazon for Tire Installations and Purchases

Sears Auto Centers is a division Sears Holdings Corp. and announced yesterday that it’s partnering with for tire installation and balance services for customers who buy any brand of tire on, including its own DieHard brand. In the next weeks, eight major metropolitan areas will be covered: Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas, Los Angeles (including Miami), New York, San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Sears Auto’s more than 400 Auto Centers in the U.S. will soon be able to offer the service. Sears Auto Center will contact customers to confirm their appointment.

Total Retail’s View: This collaboration is a result of a growing relationship between Sears & Amazon. Sears started selling Alexa enabled Kenmore appliances through Amazon in July 2017. Sears’ DieHard brand products were then added to Amazon in December. This announcement was a rare positive for Sears. The news saw the shares of Sears’ department store chain rise 24 per cent.