The challenges that retailers face are many but one that is becoming harder to ignore is the presence of online shopping or e-commerce. Go to any mall and it is noticeable how many stores have closed. Retail giants like Best Buy are reporting losses and going through lay-offs. Department stores like Bloomingdales are closing huge locations like at the Mall of America. Not only is this a sign of the economic times we live in, but many consumers have changed the way they shop in general. If someone was looking to buy a TV they could go to Best Buy or Wal-Mart to look at the TV and then find the best price for that TV by searching online. The amount of consumers shopping online has grown in the last few years and continues to grow. According to Forrester Research consumers spent $202 billion shopping online in 2011, $226 billion in 2012 and are projected to spend $327 billion in 2016.
The changes in the retail industry aren't only affecting large retailers but small ones as well. One of the newest trends that I have been reading about is having a store that doesn’t sell anything. Warby Parker and Bonobus are examples of this new trend for small businesses. Both have an existing online presence and are now opening stores where customers can try on products and receive advice, but to place an order they have to go online. As stated by USA Today, this is taking after Apple’s example of turning the store experience from “buying to trying”.
The way these online retailers are adapting to what they think their customers want shows innovation in their space, even though as the article points out not all online retailers think this makes sense. These online retailers are connecting with their customers in new ways beyond their online presence. All retailers large and small need to seek new ways to connect with their customers and stay relevant in an increasingly online society. Connecting with your customers by using email and text marketing can help you stay top of mind when customers are making decisions about where to shop. Utilizing social media as a way to connect with customers online is another way retailers can stay relevant. It is important to update your customers on sales, new inventory and other special events to keep them engaged. At this point in our increasingly online society it is a huge mistake to not be sending emails, texts and social media messages to connect.
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