Retail Amenities are the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Shopping
The brick-and-mortar retail industry has been in decline for many years due to online competition that has much lower overhead. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic made the outlook bleak. Yet, 2022 has given brick-and-mortar retail the opportunity to bounce back because physical stores can offer retail amenities that online stores can’t. Many people are looking to get out of their homes that they’ve spent so much time in recently, and are spending their hard-earned dollars – though many still have tight wallets due to the increase in inflation, and now, the increase in interest rates.
As a result, retailers need to change how they engage potential customers, and how customers engage with their stores. Technology, social media, and an increased focus on experiences in retail, are helping store owners to compete to bring traffic through their doors. The core part of this shift includes identifying strategic locations that can be retrofitted with more retail amenities to cater to the needs of shoppers who are peeking out of their cocoons.
Types of Retail Amenities
Interactive and Non-Interactive Screens
Interactive screens are just another word for kiosks, and people tend to like to interact with kiosks. But what should a retail store display on their kiosk? There’s a few possibilities, and it all really depends on what type of store it is. A store for sneaker heads might have searchable info on special new releases, while a sporting goods store might have a catalogue with specialty sporting equipment.
Non-Interactive screens like TVs would be good for either commercials for shoes and sporting goods, or for displaying some entertaining video content for store guests. That could be music videos, or ESPN highlights.
Electric Vehicle Chargers
As the number of Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the road increases over the next few years, EV chargers are going to be a necessary amenity for retail locations. There will need to be droves of low cost, low energy output Level 2 EV chargers for shoppers to charge their car while they’re shopping. Then there will also need to be some high cost, high energy output Level 3 EV chargers to allows patrons to fill up their cars quickly – and pay a little more to do so.
Though most people who have an EV and have a home with a garage will charge their car at home, there are many people who do not have garages in cities and will be looking to charge their car at public EV chargers. Since EV chargers take at a minimum 30 minutes for a full charge, there is going o be a lot of time that EV drivers will need to kill while their cars are charging.
As you can imagine, a storefront with an available EV charger is going to attract a lot more traffic than a storefront without one, so the more EV charger you have in front of your store, the more traffic they will drive to your store. The extreme of this is EV charger amenities for Theme Parks, with their massive parking lots that will need to be electrified.
In Store Food – Vending Machines?
Ikea (who doesn’t like their Swedish Meatballs?) and Costco know that if you serve food in your store, you’re going to get people to stay longer, and attract people who are looking to knock 2 things (eating and shopping) off their to do list in the same space. The hotdog at Costco has been kept at $1.50 despite inflation because it lures people into the store and is the first step for many people before they start or after they stop shopping. Increasing time-in-store is such a huge factor for increasing sales, that Costco is willing to take a loss on selling you that hotdog, just so you’ll come in and stay a little longer.
That hotdog is sold from a food-court area which takes a lot of space and employees, but any retail shop can set up a vending machine with snacks that they think their clientele will enjoy. Imagine a healthy snack machine in a fitness store, or in Victoria’s Secret. Or, tea, coffee, energy drinks, and snacks in a department store? Department stores are usually barren of food and require that you cross into the common mall area to actually buy some food. A few easily accessible snack and drink vending machines within the store would certainly help keep people there a little longer.
Wi-Fi is an inexpensive and easy amenity that you can provide to your customers. Though you may be worried about customers using your wi-fi to search for better deals at your competitors, most will just be thankful to be able to linger on the web while at your store.
Also, you could institute a policy that if someone finds a price on an item at a legit competitor that is cheaper than your store’s price, then they could have the item for that price. Then you would never lose a sale, and your customers would be super happy that you’re providing them a spot with free wi-fi.
Free Phone Charging Stations
Free phone charging stations are a great amenity to provide in your store. People often run low on battery on their phones, so if you have a free spot for them to charge up, you’ll lessen their “charge anxiety” (similar to reducing range anxiety for electric cars) and allow them to stay in your store a bit longer, so they might come across something to buy. Free Wi-Fi goes hand in hand with free phone charging stations, though you may want to set a time limit like 30mins, so that people just sit on the spot the whole day.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality makes a lot of sense in a retail store because it can help to provide an experience that is not available anywhere else. Similarly, Virtual reality can be used to provide a unique experience, however, it might end up being more like an arcade or online shopping, while augmented reality can be embedded within the physical store and direct customers to items or keep track of their total bill.
Augmented reality can also be used to provide advertisements for a particular item or brand when a customer points their phone in a certain direction or at a particular item.
Robots are very neat and don’t necessarily need to come in human form. 3D printers can be put on display in store windows to show customers how they work, all while another customer gets their item printed. There are some vending machines that have been made mobile to carry items to customers in outdoor areas, almost like robotic servers.
Retail Amenities are More About Marketing Than About Practicality
Though your customers will think about how great it is to have these practical amenities, the business owner should be thinking about how to market these amenities to their customers. If no one knows that you have an Electric Vehicle charger at your store, then why would anyone go to your store to charge? Once you get an EV charger installed, you need to market it by having it added to google maps and Plugshare and any other EV charger finder site. So, when someone searches for an EV charger in your area, then your store will show up.
The same thought process should be applied to other amenities as well. The vending machines in your store should be branded similar to the items your selling, and fit with your customer’s likes and dislikes.
So, as I’ve said an written many times before, micro real estate is as much about the the machine as it is about the location, and they need to make sense together.