Making brick-and-mortar, brick-and-MORER — three steps for physical stores to reach and retain shoppers

Personalize the purchase.

eMarketer reports that the ability to purchase an item online and return or exchange it in store was noted as extremely important or important — an example of the fluid experience shoppers seek and expect from retailers today. And it doesn’t stop there — customers expect personalized promotions based on their unique shopping habits and preferences.

How do you bring this to life in-store? Athleta does it by ensuring that any hands-on interaction between the customer and the brand can be tailored to each individual customer. The store offers fit-styling appointments, free hemming and free fitness classes, where customers can put the store’s “give it a workout guarantee” to the test. If a garment doesn’t perform up to par? It’s returned and refunded, no questions asked.

Bottom line: Make every shopper feel special.

Build a community.

Along with giving shoppers a personal in-store experience, fitness store Athleta also uses its stores to build communities, as stated on its website: “Our stores serve as hubs for women to connect, ignite and inspire each other through free classes, events and programs.” They aren’t the only ones. Home Depot offers free building classes for kids and free DIY classes for adults. Classes for kids happen every month and bring shoppers into the store for a hands-on experience that focused on fun, family interaction. Similarly, Michaels offers a special club for kids to enjoy free classes on everything from floral arrangements and cake decorating, to designing tote bags and creating cards. Think of the store as a place for interaction first, and transaction second.

Bottom line: Bring people together under your brand.

Create new conveniences.

eMarketer reports that mobile is the new retail hub. That’s not surprising given the convenience of ordering everything from kitchen sponges to handmade Italian shoes through one’s phone. Features like Amazon’s 1-Click ordering, and stores creating apps to help shoppers earmark wishlist purchases before moving them into the cart for free shipping right to their door make shopping feel like a fun, multitasking activity as opposed to a “path to purchase.”

How do physical stores compete? By making the visit easier. Walmart lets shoppers order groceries online, then come to the store for same-day pickup (they’ll even load your car). Best Buy will help consumers set up devices in store — even if they weren’t purchased there. The Geek Squad is on hand to assist people with health and fitness trackers, GPS units, gaming systems, smartwatches, digital cameras and more.

Bottom line: Determine the hassles for different kinds of purchases and then seek to remove them.