According to a consumer survey conducted by IRI in January 2018, 76% of American shopping journeys now begin online. Whether to research products, compare prices, make reservations/ bookings, or purchase goods, …. consumers are going digital-first.
This digital-first mentality suggests that retailers big and small, local or national, need to pivot together in order to leverage the multitude of digital solutions that create convenient, multi-faceted, and unique shopping experiences for customers.
However, more often than not, digital solutions are not so easy or inexpensive to implement. Small, local businesses that are typically run by limited staff with limited resources often lack the knowledge and capacity to adopt new systems and processes; much less invest in new gadgets and software.
Back in 2012, a report by the Center for an Urban Future entitled “Smarter Small Businesses” confirmed that the failure to embrace technology was hurting business owners in lower-income, minority communities. At the time, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents reported having a computer, as many as one in five low- to moderate-income proprietors did not – and this was hurting their ability to do proper accounting and to get bank loans.
So how might your downtown organization, chamber of commerce, or local business service office tackle this digital divide? Well, the answer is really quite simple. Modernize that storefront improvement program that already exists in most commercial districts!
When you break down the storefront of the future, it can no longer simply be defined by its windows, awnings, signage, building façade, and doors. It needs to also include everything we’ve become familiar with as consumers in the 21st century – the digital Point-of-Sales system, the store Instagram/Facebook/ Twitter account or #hashtag, the store website that is synced to in-store inventory, and the Yelp and Google reviews, and more!
Like a traditional storefront improvement program, the storefront-of-the-future improvement program should include key elements such as,
As technology continues to permeate the retail sector, it’s important that we adapt the toolbox of resources we are providing to our local entrepreneurs and small business owners. We’re so excited to see organizations like Downtown Alliance here in New York City and Digital Main Street in Canada lead the movement with well-organized programs that focus financial and technical assistance on implementing digital and tech solutions that will create resilient Storefronts of the Future.