Retailers are hitting historic sales and traffic numbers by using cutting-edge technology to serve customers and gain competitive insight, according to North Plainfield-based Levin Management Corp.‘s eight annual Mid-year Retail Sentiment Survey.
The survey polled managers from Levin’s 105-property, 15 million-square foot portfolio on tech issues and their stores’ year-to-date performance.
“Our latest survey reveals historically strong sales and traffic numbers,” LMC CEO Matthew K. Harding said. “More than three quarters (76%) of participants reported sales at a same or higher level year over year, and nearly three quarters (72.9%) are seeing traffic levels that match or exceed last year at this time. These are the strongest gains in our survey’s history, beating trailing averages by double digits.”
Merging e-commerce and brick-and-mortar
According to Harding and the LCM findings, technology and the continued merger of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar is driving the success of the retail sector.
“What we previously have differentiated as e-commerce or traditional retail today is, simply, retail,” he said. “In our omnichannel world, ‘click and collect’ has become a huge driver of traffic to brick-and-mortar locations.”
About 70.4% of respondents said their company offers an online option for buying goods, scheduling appointments or placing orders for pick-up, up from less than 50% compared to two years ago.
“A recent International Council of Shopping Centers survey shows more than half of adults use click-and-collect,” Harding said. “Top retailers like Home Depot and Target have reported that individual stores are fulfilling significant percentages of their digital sales. Smart retailers know ancillary sales are a big win in these situations, and they are striving to make the customer experience as convenient as possible. Everything from self-serve lockers to space redesigns that emphasize showrooming are in the mix.”
Retailers are also using technology for business intelligence, the survey found.
The survey found 66.9% of mangers analyze customer and sales data for merchandising, designing new services and options, planning in-store events, and creating special offers.
“Our tenants are gaining valuable insights from information they are gathering organically in the process of selling goods and services, and via maintaining customer-loyalty and other programs. This undoubtedly facilitates a more targeted marketing process and more personalized experiences for shoppers.”
Focusing on the customer experience
Physical retail stores are currently working to distinguish in-store shopping from online, according to Melissa Sievwright, LCM’s vice president of marketing.
The survey found among those who have made changes based on the e-commerce evolution, about 72% have increased their focus on training and customer service, and 48.1% have added in-store services and incentives.
“The human touch and the level of convenience that can be created today in a physical store has great appeal for consumers,” Sievwright said. “Smart retailers are recognizing this and taking advantage of any chance to make a trip to their shop pleasant and worthwhile.”
Technology is also prominent among retailers’ marketing efforts, with email being the most popular tool, followed by social media/social marketing, both used by more than three quarters of managers.
“Retailers have such a great opportunity to leverage technology in marketing,” Sievwright noted. “It is no secret that consumers today conduct research online before heading to a store to make a purchase. And when it comes to social, a hyper-local strategy can be a big differentiator in establishing strong community-based branding and shopper loyalty.”