London,

3 ways to make physical retail successful and grow your business in 2021

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Popular opinion would have you believe the events of 2020 have finally delivered the knockout blow to physical retail.

Lockdown measures in countries across the world saw many stores forced to close their doors. Combined with the need for social distancing – and consumers reluctant to venture far from home – it’s led to experts predicting a bleak future for physical retail.

The good news is nothing could be further from the truth. Research carried out in the UK at the end of 2020 discovered 80% of retailers say their stores are becoming just as, if not more important, to their business than before the pandemic.

How to make physical retail successful and grow your business in 2021

  1. Provide convenience and choice
  2. Give customers a reason to visit and make your stores a ‘showcase’
  3. Seamlessly integrate all sales channels, both in-store and online

 1. Provide convenience & choice

In a post-pandemic world, consumers want convenience and choice more than ever before. They crave ease and efficiency. In store, this means making it easy for them to make purchases through a range of check out options whether that’s a traditional ‘by the counter’ model, a mobile point of sale, or self-checkout.

If your Point Of Sale (POS) is powered by new, game-changing technology, it will be mobile-first and you can easily offer different ways of paying to your customers. For example, last year when COVID-19 first hit, mobile points of sale and contactless payments helped one of Sweden’s leading garden centres, to easily enable click & collect and curbside pickups. The result was an increase in sales by 50% in one month, compared to the previous year.

New technology also means that a modern POS often comes with a built in self-checkout mode. The flexibility of a cloud-native POS means you can quickly and cost efficiently adapt to the needs of your customers, making long lines a thing of the past and empowering your associates to deliver a better service. 

Choice and convenience don’t stop there. 

A major impact of the pandemic has seen a desire from consumers to shop local. Mastercard reported that 66% of consumers in the UK wanted to shop local and this, combined with more people working from home, is why many retailers, according to herraldscottland.com, are looking to relocate stores to different locations where footfall has increased. Nearly half of fashion and a third of lifestyle and home retailers say they need stores in new locations as a result of the pandemic.

If any of your stores are suffering from reduced footfall, look to see how easy it would be to relocate or open new stores in locations where footfall and demand have increased. Pop-up stores remain hugely successful and could be a ‘quick-fix’ if you’re looking to open stores in new locations. With cloud-native technology and a flexible POS behind them, they can be up and running in just a few days and are cost efficient. They are a great way to test the popularity of new locations without having to commit too much cost. Read about Didriksons pop-up strategy here.

2. Give customers a reason to visit

In 2021, your stores need to do more. You need to give consumers a reason to visit. As well as convenience and choice, creating an experience in your stores is all part of the successful physical retail package.

Your physical stores are the jewel in your crown for delivering the kind of experiences consumers increasingly want. This is why physical retail is moving towards the ‘store-as-showcase’ model where technology is combined with showcasing  a small number of trending or popular items. In stores like Nike’s members-first Rise store or CDLP’s ‘kind of pop-up’ in the heart of Stockholm, technology and the physical space work in harmony to make sure the customer always gets the best possible experience.

According to Forbes, The industry expects small-format stores – where technology, service and limited assortment of stock combine – to become increasingly popular. According to an article in Econsultancy, your customers will increasingly seek out physical stores that are efficient, effective and give them an ‘immersive, entertainment driven experience.’

Your store associates are crucial in making this happen and a key differentiator between physical and online retail. When your associates are ‘brand champions’ it’s a great reason for customers to visit your stores. 

In order for your associates to provide expert advice to your customers, they need to have the right tools for assisted selling where they have enhanced product information and endless aisle capabilities at their fingertips.

Your customers also want to feel safe when they return to your stores – so features like contactless payments and digital receipts are now a must.

Use the time you have now – while the world is still on the road to recovery – to plan your in-store experiences and ensure they are extraordinary. With the growing popularity and ease of online shopping, your physical stores need to offer a point of difference to pull your customers into them.

They have to give people a reason to visit that is so compelling, it justifies their exposure to health risks and overcomes the inertia of the behaviors they adopted during the shutdown

“As a result of COVID-19, all retailers will have to make their in-store experiences even more extraordinary for those who can visit in person. They have to give people a reason to visit that is so compelling, it justifies their exposure to health risks and overcomes the inertia of the behaviors they adopted during the shutdown. Investing in some of the unique capabilities of digital — including real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, personalization and co-creation functions — can create completely new and different shopping experiences.”
– US Consumer Sentiment During The Coronavirus Crisis, McKinsey, November 2020

3. Seamlessly integrate all your sales channels

Your physical stores have to integrate seamlessly with all your sales channels. It’s essential to the first two points. Without this, your customers won’t have choice, convenience, or a good experience.

This is a big reason why, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com, 86% of all software spending in retail is now focused on the concept of unified commerce. Unified commerce is when all sales channels exchange product, inventory, order and customer data in real time, resulting in complete accuracy and full transparency across all touchpoints. It’s hard – if not impossible – to make unified commerce a reality with older, out-dated technology. 

Your customers want all prices, stock levels, orders, and the information you hold on them to be unified. They want to be able to return eComm goods in store and, if they want an item that isn’t in stock, they expect to still be able to purchase it there and then, and have it delivered to their home (or an address of their choosing.) 

This requires all your systems to work together in harmony – and the best way of achieving this is through a unified commerce platform which connects to all your systems in real-time.

Alongside this, with the ability to sell and fulfill everything from anywhere, you’ll never miss a sale and you’ll be able to give your customers what they want, when they want it. 

Customers expect safe, convenient and integrated experiences from retailers wherever and however they shop

“Although shoppers’ continue to move to online and mobile, in-store shopping is still alive and necessary for retailers to provide a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. Customers expect safe, convenient and integrated experiences from retailers wherever and however they shop. Retailers need to fully digitize and optimize to adapt to shoppers flexible shopping habits.”
– The Essential Shopper Experience: Safety, Speed and Convenience, Zebra

The pandemic has shown us two things: one, customers now expect every retailer to have a seamless, integrated offering, and, two, retailers further along in their digital transformation journeys have been able to weather the storm far better than those who have resisted change.

In short, unified commerce bridges the gap between online and physical stores – and it prevents your customers having poor experiences.


In Summary

  • The flexibility of a cloud-native Point of Sale (store technology) makes it much easier to provide convenience and choice to your customers while helping you maximise sales.
  • Assisted Selling tools will empower your store associates to give customers a great customer experience alongside giving them a reason to visit and revisit your stores.
  • You need to analyse whether your store locations are in the right place and if pop-up stores could be an alternative or complement your existing offering.
  • To ensure your physical offering delivers a best-in-class experience for your customers, all your sales channels need to be connected in real-time.
  • Investing in a unified commerce platform should be viewed as a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have.’

Online and mobile shopping will continue to grow but writing-off physical retail is a dangerous path to take. Combining digital and physical with a unified commerce platform is what the best brands are already doing and will continue to do in 2021.

As a forward-thinking retailer you understand this, but many still believe making unified commerce a reality is complicated and costly. It isn’t. Find out why our game-changing technology and our passionate team of retail experts make it simple.

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