When Walmart dominated the retail industry in the late 1980s, it was accused of shutting down mom-and-pop stores. Since then, it has had fierce competition from online retailer Amazon. Now Walmart, Target, and other big box stores, as well as small, local businesses, are now fighting for their lives.
Amazon offers convenience and a huge selection. Traffic can be avoided while shoppers can purchase items from their home or office. With two-day, next-day, and even sometimes same-day delivery, Amazon is giving brick-and-mortar retailers a run for their money.
Retailers aren’t going to give up without a fight, however.
5 Ways Retailers are Trying to Drum Up Business
Here are five ways retailers are trying to woo people into their stores.
1. Cashierless Checkout
Rather than waiting in line for a checkout clerk to scan items, shoppers at many Walmarts now can go up to a kiosk, scan their own products, pay with cash or credit card, and wrap up without a long wait.
2. Drive-Up Service for Online Orders
At some Walmart stores, shoppers can order their groceries online and then drive to the Walmart where they don’t even need to get out of the car to get their packages.
“We see most pickups at night. People order their groceries online and drive through to pick them up on the way home,” says Wal-Mart’s Anne Hatfield says.
3. Different Entrances for Different Purposes
Target is now testing a set up in Houston where one entrance leads to the quick “grab-and-go” stuff, and the other entry opens to the more traditional Target discount department store experience.
4. New Futuristic Technologies
Beacons that track which items shoppers look at and push information to their smart phones are just one of the technologies that might be in local stores in the near future. Augmented reality will also be a hot trend, such as electronic “mirrors” that dynamically show clothing or make-up without the shopper needing to physically change.
5. More Food
Swedish-furniture company IKEA was perhaps the first major retailer to really incorporate a food experience into its shopping flow. When IKEA became hugely popular in the 1990s, one of its attractions was the small restaurant it would typically place in the middle of its winding storeroom.
Going to IKEA was sold almost like going to a Disneyworld Epcot exhibit, with a Swedish-themed café selling themed platters. The chain to this day promotes its famous lingonberry and Swedish meatballs as part of the reason to come to IKEA.
Other retailers are now catching up and expanding their food and beverage options.
Outdoor “Cities” Instead of Malls
Finally, brick-and-mortar retailers are counting on the trend for city-like shopping areas to promote business. While malls are out of favor, open-air shopping is the trend, even in places with extremely hot weather such as Austin, Texas. The Domain in North Austin is more than just an outdoor shopping mall – it is designed to be a mini-city with stores, residences, hotels, and movie theaters laid out like a mini-downtown.
As Walmart used to dominate retail, Amazon will eventually be challenged by an upstart company. Time will tell whether it will be online, offline, or a combination of the two.