Retail sales have not been as strong as retailers had hoped this holiday season, but they may have been just good enough to meet, if not exceed, expectations. While holiday sales figures weren't as high as most retailers would have liked, they will take new approaches to their online and in-store presences to ensure that next year's retail sales improve.
With some retailers predicting tremendous growth in online sales, and others banking on in-store bargains to lure holiday shoppers, it's not surprising that a combination of the two seems to yield the best results for retailers and shoppers alike. Many consumers still crave the face-to-face interaction of in-store shopping, but they love the convenience of online shopping. In order to be successful, stores will have to adapt their retail sales techniques to complement the online experience and support customers who enter the store with more product knowledge from prior research and social media.
Retailers have learned that they can't just rely on any one promotion to draw shoppers in. Black Friday may receive the lion's share of holiday shopping publicity, but smart shoppers know that all that hype doesn't necessarily equate to the best bargains. As consumers become savvier, retailers have to scramble to keep up with newer gimmicks and promotions to boost retail sales.
New Tactics Needed
Deep discounts alone won't lead to bigger profits for retailers. Too often, in order to gain market share, they find themselves offering heavily discounted items with a very low profit margin or even selling at a loss. The future of retail sales rests heavily on the shoulders of those who are willing to offer an enhanced shopping experience, both online and in the brick-and-mortar establishments.
Consumers are looking for a the right mix of low prices and convenience. Busy shoppers expect quicker customer service, a wider selection of available goods to choose from and the ability to enjoy themselves as they shop. Many are unwilling to fight their way through a crowded store and endure a long wait in line simply to get a bargain. While they want good value, they will often pay a little bit more for good service and a pleasant experience.
Online Shopping Meets Brick-and-mortar Convenience
Some retailers are catching on, offering customers amenities such as a place to sip a cup of coffee before or after shopping. This also encourages them to spend more time in the store. Offering in-store pickup with online shopping is another successful technique to get shoppers who know exactly what want into the retail outlet. This combination of online promotions and in-store bargains gives customers the best of both worlds – exactly what they want when they want it with the added benefits of the in-store service and experience.
With another year of holiday sales in the books, retailers are taking stock and assessing what works best for their particular stores. As long as they are striving to meet the needs and desires of their customers both online and off, retail sales should remain steady as the economy continues to improve. Those who fail to successfully marry the two will find the going difficult in the years ahead.
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