Commercial, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution

NRF Expo: Mom and Pop Stores in 2019

Welcome to NRF Expo Series

With this article, I am starting a series of reports inspired by visiting NRF 2019 retail’s big show which took place on January 13-15th in NYC. As noted by the organizers, NRF is the world’s largest retail conference and expo which gathers the biggest retail players from 99 countries. So, it is a splendid opportunity to learn about trends and innovations, find new partners and clear out prospects.

Women using smartphone for online shopping

My first day was majorly devoted to deepening into the transformations small retailers are facing today with the increasing impact of digitization. While everybody’s eyes are justly turned to the marvels of such erupted online giants as Amazon, Alibaba or eBay, do so-called mom and pop stores really stand a chance to survive in this brave new digital world? Here are some insights from the leaders of the industry.

Can Mom and Pop Shops Stay on a Roll?

Mom and pop stores are small, mostly family-run businesses with a small amount of business volume and single location. Most of them are struggling hard today to stand up to large international retailers. But the experts promise the situation can be improved due to technical innovations and improvements in customer experience.

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A good example from my own home town Ålesund, where Sponland is ready to take on their journey into the future. Store Manager Marit Brunstad says: “It is a new and exiting future, a disruption we must take seriously; but we are prepared and motivated to meet our customers in new channels and on new terms”

Being not burdened by large operating expenses, staffing, and warehousing, small stores have more chances to benefit from flexibility and clear customer focus. On the contrast to multivendor marketplaces, they can succeed in a vertical dimension, that is, in exploiting narrow, really specialized niches and competently addressing their target audience. But most important, it is easier for them to develop and maintain relevant corporate culture and staff involvement.

Next Step to Staff Efficiency

There is a close link between the customer experience and employee experience, states Jami Blake, a voice of customer director in Tiffany & Co. Today’s customers differ considerably from the previous generations. They have much more knowledge about the product yet before they enter your store – and expect a consultant not just provide adequate and detailed information (which itself demands from employees to be better informed and enthusiastic). What is more important is the message the company beams, the narrative behind the product, the inspiration it brings to people’s lives. To be competitive, modern companies want (and need) to be the part of customers’ lives.

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But to inspire clients and to deliver the company’s promise properly, employees need to be inspired first. Here are some recommendations from the members of the senior executive panel discussion on how to drive enterprise profit and performance. The participants included executives with 50+ year experience in retail from such companies as Finish Line, Shopko, Macy’s, and Chico’s. The following statements from their discussion drew my attention:

  • do forget about multitasking, instead, keep all members of your staff concentrated on one task and delivering one message,
  • keep in mind the limitations of any technology, remember that technology should inspire your staff and make work easier, not become a burden,
  • encourage employees to ask questions and keep them involved,
  • create success stories not only for customers but for employees,
  • and, what is most important, while introducing any innovations into the processes, remember that any changes take time and avoid staff’s fatigue.

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To make a long story short, educate your staff, create corporate culture and connections and remember that staff dissatisfaction may cost too much since most often, it leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Customers Engaged

One of the ways to unburden your employees and though strange it may sound, to enhance customer loyalty is to shift more responsibility in the process of decision making and purchase on clients. Modern technologies make it simple and easy and it is a great opportunity for both big and small businesses.

We all live half-virtual life today staying connected most of the time. According to forecasts, each household is believed to have up to 50 connected devices by 2020, and mobile commerce is to capture 49% of online retail sales by that time reaching from $ 250 to $ 300 billion in transaction. Even today, companies which wisely use mobile apps are one step ahead of their competitors.

Turning your eyes on mobile technologies allows you to reach your customers where and when THEY want to shop. It encourages purchases through quicker and easier access to information about the product. It gives your customers more power and brings them into decision-making. It delights them through more personalized and seamless experiences. And it makes your employees less burdened.

Try It Online: State-of-the-Art Demos and Showrooms

Another perk modern technologies bring into commerce is opportunities offered by virtual and augmented reality. Even today, using headsets or other applicable technology, users can try on items and see holograms or 3-D views of the products. In the future, people will be able to visually shop in their local mom and pop store using VR or AR and have orders delivered to them.

Does it mean that traditional brick-and-mortar stores will sink into oblivion? Most likely, not, since there is a kind of the shopper’s delight no virtual store can give – that of keeping a thing in hands, touching it, feeling its smell – you know, all those sensations which induce us to spontaneous purchases. But it is quite predictable that most of the shops of the future will need to turn to BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up in Store) concept. No wonder one of the panels of this year NRF conference was totally devoted to the future of the BOPIS model.

What small retailers should take into account first and foremost when intending to introduce this model into their business? Remember that to start BOPIS, you need to have full control of your inventory. Your store is expected to have agility and ability to act rapidly. Do think of autonomous supply chain. And remember that no matter what model you choose, a scientific, data-driven approach is a must-have for commerce today.

Conclusion: Modernized, not Historized

To survive in a modern competitive world, the company does not necessarily need to be a big conglomerate like Amazon or eBay. Small mom and pop stores have all chances to stay afloat and even prosper provided they benefit from modern technologies and innovative marketing strategies, such as developing in narrow specialized niches, staff optimization and education, creating a strong company culture, encouraging customer involvement, and store decentralization.

If you are interested in hearing more about the future of retail, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

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