Login to any e-commerce site, a personalized homepage from your last browsing session appears along with a web notification- A 10% discount on anything bought in the next 30 minutes. Tempting, Isn’t it?

What if an offline store offered similar discounts? With a completely personalized shopping experience and the pleasure of instant gratification. Would that help gain competitive advantage?

First impressions matter

I was looking to buy basketball shoes for my son. From style to fit and out-sole to cushion, his exacting standards and an uncompromising attitude was a reminder of how times have changed.

We decided to check at a store nearby. When we entered, the attendant was busy fiddling away with his phone. A store layout so confusing, the attendant himself was clueless about basketball shoes and rang up ‘bhai’- his manager I’m guessing. After a good 5 minutes on the phone, he started digging out a few dusty boxes without asking us what size or other specifications. We walked right out!

A contrast – A warm greeting and pleasant ambiance, as we entered, had already bought them their brownie points! Each assistant specialized in different sections of the store. They checked their inventory for basketball shoes and available sizes. While we were shown aplenty to choose from, he enlightened us on facts about design and other technicalities. He also showed us some basketballs – just in case we were looking for any.

A discount and sign-up to the store loyalty program were offered as gratitude for the first timer. Out checkout was quick and hassle free. A mail was sent asking us about our experience shopping with them and suggestions for any improvements.

Let’s draw a few distinctions between the two and evaluate what would give your store an edge over others:

1. Keep innovating!

Technology is a tool to obtain insightful data on customers. By tracking purchasing trends, retailers could plan promotional schemes from special discounts to upgrades and personalized deals. It is important to engage with your customers in a constant feedback loop. Get smarter! Not everyone knows what they are looking for. Know what triggers needs! your store should be where they discover what these needs are.

Be it your business model or how your staff interact with customers. Your employees are the face of your business. Train them on how to face customers and make recommendations if required. Make sure not to smother them with all you’ve got.

Efficiency is key
Make the point of sale simple.
Your POS is the key interface in selling. It should be easy to use, reliable, support discounts and help you make faster checkouts. Scalability is a major parameter. A cloud based solution is undoubtedly better.

Keep tabs
It is important that every single transaction is recorded along with tax calculation. Financial report generation as a part of your accounting processes will help you in analysis.

Stock it well
A store should never run out stock. No retail store can afford a bad customer experience on account of inadequate stocks. Identify the best vendors in terms of price, delivery, quality and lead time and keep track of your orders. Make sure to track and transfer a product from another branch for the customer if required; all in real-time.

2. Data Management

Gather insights
Financial reports, Business intelligence and other actionable insights should be readily available for optimizing resources to plan your next big move. A cloud-based system ensures that your data is secured.
Brand it well
Each touchpoint in a store can leave a lasting impression on the customer. Right from the display window, packaging, store design and signage to the checkout counter. Once a customer visits and buys at a store there is a lot of information which gets captured. Retail outlets can run SMS and email campaigns based on a customer’s buying preferences to develop a sense of loyalty.

After a sale
Proper after sales service and support are vital in many aspects. Keep the relationship alive with well-run loyalty programs and regular communication.