How Can SMBs Create a Smart Retail Store?

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    <div class=”micro-share”><div id=”top_ads” class=”print cpc-track”></div> <p> For want of a nail, a battle was lost.
    </p><p> Founded in 1957 by Charles Lazarus, Toys 'R' Us had been in business for more than six decades and had about 1600 retail stores across the world. At its peak, it was considered a category killer, doing for toys what the likes of Barnes and Noble had done to bookstores, Best Buy had done to electronics stores, and Staples to office supply stores.

    Therefore, it came as a significant shock when on September 18, 2017, Toys 'R' Us announced bankruptcy, closing down almost all of its stores worldwide. </p><p> What led to the demise of such a giant, was the refusal to change with time. While almost every other retail store branch was taking steps towards converting themselves into smart stores, Toys 'R' Us became complacent, resulting in fewer sales, lesser profits, and steep drops in the share market.

    The point is if such a large company can fall into bankruptcy, small and medium businesses need to up their game to stay in the game and use new-age tools and technologies to make the business more effective. Many businesses and stores have set out to convert their existing chains into 'smart stores' and despite the seemingly complex process, the steps for small and medium businesses to create smart stores aren't very challenging.

    Here are some starting points for converting a regular retail store into a smart store: </p><h2>Turn the shopping into an experience</h2><p> Any place can sell products, but only a few can sell experiences. Experience-based and interactive retail store strategies are the best way to propel sales in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

    In addition to providing customers with a sense of personal touch, the novelty and uniqueness of shopping in such an environment is an excellent motivation for customers to keep coming back for more. Apple has aced this game, and the results are for everyone to see. Implementing technology-driven shopping experiences can also be successful, as the 'seamless shopping' program of H&M and the 'FabCafe' by FabIndia.

    The ever-evolving technology has some brilliant solutions that can create a shopping experience, like – </p><h3>1. Use QR Codes</h3><p> Quick Response (QR) codes have become a powerful marketing tool in the past few years. Their easy accessibility (simply scanning the code through the camera on any smartphone) and super-fast response time make it a great feature for marketing.

    Additionally, they can also come in handy for providing links to your website or social media pages, and encouraging customers to download your app. </p><p> QR codes can be further used in the form of smart tags, where customers can access product information like ingredient details, origins, and packaging, etc.

    After the shopping is complete, they can also leave feedback by simply scanning another code that redirects them straight to a feedback page. Such an approach can create a positive impact on customers across all groups and also help you collect valuable insights on customer demographic and shopping behavior.

    </p><h3>2. Self-checkout kiosks</h3><p> Walmart first started this ingenious transaction process that saves both time and hassle. After many consumers complained against standing in long queues even after they were finished with their shopping, the self-checkout kiosk was brought into inception. These kiosks have smart bar code readers, and you can scan your purchases and pay the required amount.

    It also means that the store requires a lesser workforce, and you can use those resources to improve customer service. </p><h3>3. Smart fitting rooms</h3><p> Ideal for apparel and garment stores, smart fitting rooms have been a revelation in the retail industry.
    Equipped with smart mirrors that not only let the users look at themselves, but also provide an array of related information, essentially cuts out the need of having a store attendant to assist the customers. If the size is not an exact fit, the smart bidet mirror lets them know whether it is available online in their size, and upon confirmation, delivers it straight to their home.

    It also allows them to check whether the product is available in other colors or the availability of more products similar to their liking. </p><h3>4. Smart ordering kiosk</h3><p> Although it is ideally suited for restaurants and bars, these kiosks can be an innovative addition to retail stores as well.

    The process is simple; customers browse through the menu, pick what they like, place the order, and pay the required amount directly, smart mirror all on a smart screen without minimal human intervention and chances of error. This can make customization of orders seamless.

    </p><div class=”spacer image_sharing_exclude” id=”middle_ads”></div><h3>5. Targeted marketing</h3><p> As a business owner, you need to focus on customer acquisition and retention equally. However, smooth customer service, combined with targeted marketing, can help you get new customers and retain existing ones.

    Targeted marketing uses tools that focus on keeping your customers notified about offers and exclusive deals that are most relevant for them, thus giving them a reason to keep coming back for more. Two great examples of such tools are beacons and geofences.

    </p><p> Beacons are devices that detect users in the vicinity of the store and send personalized messages such as discounts and special offers. This essentially results in customers being attracted to the store, hence the name beacon. </p><p> Geofences are a virtual geographic boundary created around your store, which identifies nearby users via their smartphones, and detects their entry, exit, stay duration and the period for which the customers looked at different products.

    This goes a long way in calculating curated customer demographics, leading to a boost in gross sales. </p><h3>6. Smart payments</h3><p> The practice of carrying cash, especially large amounts of it, is rapidly being shunned in favor of quicker, better modes of payment.
    As mentioned earlier, scanning a QR Codes to pay for purchase has become a norm even in small shops and enterprises. Other significant smart modes of payment are via Near Field Communication (NFC) devices, wherein the user can bring their phone/card near the point of sale (PoS) machine, and the amount is automatically deducted from the same.

    </p><h2>Turn social media into your best salesman</h2><p> You need to have an active and engaging social media presence to connect with your customers digitally. Here's how to do that: </p>

    • Hire a social media manager to ensure optimal use of all platforms.
    • Address customer concerns through social media channels.
    • Answer 'near-me' queries.

      Let Google know everything about your store.

    • Organize online contests, encouraging your followers to spread the word as much as possible.

    <h2>Make your products exclusive</h2><p> A great method to make customers feel special is by creating a sense of exclusiveness around their purchases.

    This factor is behind the success of Supreme, a formerly skateboard company that merchandizes clothes and accessories today. Similar tactics are in play when outlets offer exclusive holiday sales, as consumers know that these products and prices are not going to last, and they tend to make the most of it.

    Adding limited edition products to your existing array is a great marketing tactic to drive sales. </p><p> These are some basic steps that you can undertake to turn your business into a smart retail store. Using quick and efficient simple tools like QR codes and self-checkout to highly sophisticated ones like smart mirrors and ordering kiosks, smart mirror the use of relevant technology aids the shoppers in having a great shopping experience.

    The writing is on the wall: small and medium business owners need to future-proof their businesses against disruption and volatility by deploying new-age solutions and tools to engage their customers in the most effective manner. Here's some more food for thought: Toys 'R' Us did eventually resurface two years later, and the stores are now equipped with technology that would put the sets of a blockbuster sci-fi movie to shame.

    </p></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div class=”sharethis-inline-reaction-buttons”></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div class=”big_spacer hidden-xs hidden-sm”></div><footer><div class=”author-signature”>Basant Baruah Photo Basant Baruah is a Senior Content Marketer at </div></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div class=”sharethis-inline-share-buttons”></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div id=”amzn-assoc-ad-4d334fc4-e14e-4607-bcef-fb9047ddc41b”></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div class=”big_spacer”></div><div id=”bottom_ads” class=”ad-3 print center image_sharing_exclude cpc-track”></div></footer><div class=”spacer”></div></div>

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