A recently published Government sponsored report in Australia revealed that in the view of the author small retail businesses would not exist in five years. No more independent bookshops, newsagents, garden centres or travel agents. I can accept that we are seeing dramatic changes, but the disappearance of sectors of retailing takes some digesting. I was reminded of this the other day, that when I gave a conference presentation 15 years ago I mentioned that half the retailers in the room would not be in business in 2010. That has proven to be the case. I am of the view that the retailers who do not grasp the opportunities of change will not exist in five years, but the forward thinking retailers will exist and will have gained market share due to a less cluttered retail scene. The changes taking place in retailing either excite you or scare you. It is the excited retailers who will continue to prosper while the scared ones put their heads in the sand an hope the “good old days” will return. I was recently asked to give a talk on retail trends to a group of retailers in a shopping mall. The florist was one of the group that did not attend. Prior to the workshop, when she was invited, she told the organiser that she had been in retailing for 15 years and what could anyone tell her. I enquired on how she was doing and was told her business was in bad shape. She did not have a webpage, email or even have a computer as she did not believe in them. How am I supposed to buy a flower arrangement from her when the only means of communicating with her is to walk into the shop? Bricks and Clicks Retailing in 2011 and beyond is about “Bricks and Clicks”. The successful retailer will have an online presence as well as a physical presence. There will be times when the consumer will buy from them online and there will be times when they will buy from them by visiting there store. The stores that I have talked to are telling me that ‘Grab and Go‘ is their most profitable retail option. This is where the customer orders online and then drops in to ‘grab’ the product as they pass the store. Retailers need to understand that we do not control our destiny, that is controlled by the consumer, as retailers we need to get into the same “head space” as the consumer and they are changing their habits rapidly. If I had mentioned twelve months ago that the majority of your customers would carry a personal hand held computer, you would probably have laughed at me. But, within the next five months the majority of your consumers will be doing just that. They may still call it a phone, but the new generation of “smart” phones are in-fact more like computers that telephones. This brings in a completely new way or retailing and it is by developing these opportunities small local businesses will survive. Before we look at the ideas, the most important thing to remember is that your customers want you to survive. Recent research carried out in the UK by USwitch revealed that 97% of Brits care about local retailers and their High Street. This suggests that if small independent retailers do the right thing the local community will support them. Do the Right Thing The right thing is to look at the opportunities that “Bricks and Clicks” retailing can offer you, it includes some interesting opportunities that include: [A] The Elimination of Cash Smart phone users will want to pay for items using their phone and expect you to be geared up to deal with cashless transactions. At the writing of this article I am aware of three mobile payment systems. Google Wallet, Square [only in USA] and Evolve [only in Australia] Square already deals with 2 million dollars worth of transactions a day. More systems for payment by mobile internet devices will come along and retailers must be at the forefront of the development. [B] Promotions to Individuals on their Phone The key to success is to promote to individual consumers once they are at the store or walking past your store. Traditionally we have relied on shop window displays and point of purchase signage in the store. We now have a third technique we can add to the armour. Groupon started in Chicago in 2008 and is growing around the world at lightning speed. Groupon has a system where they connect the consumer and the retailer. Walk down the street with you smart phone on and you will receive a message of what is being promoted at stores who have subscribed to the Groupon. This allows for one to one targeted marketing to a person who is in or near your store. [C] Tell Stories Customers believe. We are all aware that customers enjoy stores and the best story teller often gets the sale. The problem retailers have faced is that consumers have been losing trust in them and therefore telling a story as a retailer has been a lot more difficult to get across and to make believable. Quick Response Codes, Q.R. Codes for short, now mean the retailer can be among the best story tellers in town. You may be aware of QR Codes; they are the black and white square matrix that are appearing on products and signage. Take you smart phone and click onto the Q. R. Code and it will take you to a designated webpage. This is normally a video that tells the story about the product. It can provide information, care instructions, history of the product, the manufacturing process or whatever story you or your supplier wish to tell. This removes the ‘trust’ doubt in the customers mind and gives you extra credibility. The customer now expects that you will be communicating via Twitter and Facebook as well as providing technical information for them on YouTube. They are ready for the virtual retailer, but they still want you to be local and they still want to come into the store for a genuine experience. Retailers cannot rely on just the “Bricks” model if they are to prosper and be in business in five years time. This does mean a change in mind set, not just a marketing mindset, but also a merchandising and display mindset. The future may mean that less stock is displayed in-store, but it is display with more flair as the space is now available to allow you to create displays that really make the consumer go WOW.