Indie Retailers and Social Media: Perfect Together?

Retail Trend Watchers Say Social Is Under-Utilized Despite Its Potential
July is Independent Retailer Month, a time to salute those merchants across the country who account for half of the annual total retail sales in the US. If our economy is to stay robust, independent retailers of all sizes need to thrive. For the smaller players in this sector of our industry, social media seems like the magic bullet. It’s pervasive, influential, and inexpensive. In addition, platforms like Facebook, offer pinpoint targeting, that matches messages to prospects.

So why aren’t more indies – especially the “Mom and Pops” – stepping up to social? Roughly one-quarter of independents have no social presence at all, and half of those who do have accounts use them inconsistently or post rarely. As regional leaders in commercial retail real estate, this is a trend we’re watching.

(Read more: https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/03/companies-that-do-not-use-social-media.html)

Why Social Media Matters to Small Businesses
As more consumers flock to social – 81 percent of the US population are on it – they expect to find local retailers there. And they expect those retailers to have websites, as well as social presence. Half the respondents to Time Warner Cable’s Small Business Technology Impact Study said they avoided businesses without websites, believing they are not credible. Thirty percent said they may not buy from a company without a social media presence, with females and millennials rejecting businesses without social at an even higher rate. Fifty percent of millennials stated they preferred businesses with active Facebook pages.

Ninety percent of the small retailers who do use social media are on Facebook. In fact, many substitute their Facebook pages for websites, a solution that, in spite of the platform’s popularity and influence, fails to impress potential customers for whom a web presence signals credibility. Bottom line? Small retailers need to think bigger and go with both a site and social for maximum success.

What’s Keeping Indie Retailers Off Social Media
With so much to gain (or lose) and so much competition, why are some indies ignoring or under-utilizing social? Respondents to the recent Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey say the primary barriers are the time social requires and doubts about ROI. And a recently released study from Infusionsoft says that half of the small businesses they surveyed had no idea what their ROI was and 14 percent believed their investment in social was not delivering a quantifiable payoff. Still, half said they plan to push forward with their online efforts.

From Special Offers to Personal Stories: Social Is Empowering the Indies
While some are missing out on the benefits of social media, many indie retailers are enjoying brand exposure and growth in traffic – both in-store and on the web. Their tactics include:

Storytelling: Millennials especially respond to the personal stories of entrepreneurs, told on social platforms like Facebook or on a website.

Special Offers: Those old reliable – coupons and special offers – are finding a new life on social.

Seasonal Events: In store-events, promoted on Facebook and sometimes livestreamed, are proving to have strong millennial appeal.

How To’s: Recipes, demonstrations, useful information of all kinds are social gold –

especially in video format on Facebook or YouTube.

Charity Tie-Ins: Socially conscious millennials tend to be responsive to social media-based tie-ins to local charities and community fundraisers.

Dialogue: Website visitors and social media followers alike expect responses to their comments and/or questions. Savvy retailers also monitor the major review platforms like Yelp for mentions of their business. Whether positive or negative, they leave a response.

Mobilization: Mobile technology is shaping the nature of shopping. Responsive design that makes websites mobile friendly is essential. And merchants who offer mobile payment options are cashing in with – you guessed it – the millennials.

Social media is no passing fad. Generation Z, the demographic wave behind the millennials, are true digital natives who live the online life. That includes not just online browsing but discovering and connecting with physical stores in their neighborhoods –

often the indies. And the place where this next generation is most likely to connect is in the palm of their hands – on their phone or tablet. Smart indies will make sure they’re there to meet them.

 

Shopping Centers: Not What They Used to Be (But That’s Not a Bad Thing)

Tale of Survival and Adaptation Unfolding for Retail Tenants and Properties

Your neighborhood shopping center isn’t what it used to be. While some say the Great Recession and the e-commerce phenomenon impacted the bricks-and-mortar landscape in a negative way, in reality, we are seeing an interesting – and encouraging – tale of endurance and progress, illustrated by the ongoing transformation of the tenant mixes of retail real estate companies.

The changes are not singular – or linear. These retail real estate trends involve new types of retail tenants and the evolution of those in our industry adapting to new settings shaped by socio-economic shifts and public policy. The bottom line: fresh opportunities are emerging in an industry where change remains one of the only sure things.

Non-Traditional is the New Normal
Not long ago, the presence of a gym at a shopping center was unusual. However, when the recession hit and many stores went dark, retail real estate companies found fitness tenants eager to step into the vacancies. At first, co-tenants were concerned about their new neighbors monopolizing parking or watering down the property’s range of products for sale. But soon, they recognized that the gym brought increased traffic their way.

Today, fitness tenants are shopping center staples, positioned as first-tier targets for retail leasing professionals. And they come in a range of price points and sizes, from Crunch Fitness and 24-hour Fitness to mid-size Retro Fitness to boutiques like Orangetheory Fitness.

The rise of the gym at retail properties was a precursor to a larger retail real estate trend. Today, many shopping centers are transitioning from places where consumers buy goods and services to places where they enjoy recreational opportunities and engage in their community.

To this end, restaurants – especially fast-casual concepts like Panera Bread and Chipotle – are comprising a larger percentage of tenant mix than in the past. This is by design, as landlords work to reintroduce shopping as a recreational pastime. Entertainment tenants are leasing spaces of all sizes, from big-box anchors like Dave & Busters to small paint-and-sip boutiques. Their success speaks to the viability of “retailtainment.”

That Which Does Not Bend May Break
At the same time, traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers – such as grocery and apparel, to name just two – remain alive and well. However they, too, look a bit different.

Following the recent A&P bankruptcy and liquidation, a growing diversification in grocery tenants has taken place in the Northeast. After several years with only a handful of expanding operators, we are seeing significant growth among chains including ShopRite, Acme, Trader Joe’s, and other specialty and ethnic grocers. Additionally, many non-grocery retailers like dollar stores and pharmacies are expanding their food inventories (although lease clauses may limit their amount of grocery-dedicated space).

In the apparel sector, a number of mid-price retailers, such as Mandee and Fashion Bug, have gone out of business over the years. However, bigger national department store players, like Nordstrom and Saks, are generating healthy sales from off-price concepts like Rack and Backstage. Discount brands such as Kohl’s, T.J.Maxx, SteinMart and Ross also remain favorites among today’s cost-conscious consumers.

Yet there’s no denying that e-commerce has made a significant impact on traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. The conversation has shifted, however, from “survival” to “opportunity,” and physical-store retailers are rethinking their approaches. They are capitalizing on opportunities to meet changing consumer needs and desires by giving customers a good reason to visit their stores.

The trends go beyond the grocery and apparel categories. Retailers across a wide range of specialties are finding new ways to engage shoppers. In Levin Management Corporation’s most recent tenant survey, nearly 40 percent of participants indicated they have adapted their business model in response to e-commerce growth. Among those respondents, many are adding in-store services and incentives, incorporating in-store pickup and return options for purchases made online, and increasing coordination with their online operations. Others are altering store inventory, introducing experience draws and/or changing their store prototypes.

Now Batting: The Healthcare Revolution
In addition to the shopping habits of Millennials and Baby Boomers, one significant driver in shifting tenant mixes ties directly to public policy. Changing healthcare laws are incentivizing people to choose walk-in clinics over trips to the ER. At the same time, hospital systems are decreasing operating costs and improving customer service by establishing outpatient services in non-medical satellite locations. The resulting boost in space demand has come at a time when retail supply has been plentiful, giving rise to a new breed of non-traditional tenants.

Urgent-care, imaging centers, doctor’s offices and dentistry chains in retail settings have something in common with their non-traditional predecessor, the fitness tenant. A shopping center-based trip to the doctor, like a workout at a gym, evolves into a visit to the grocery store or a lunch at a nearby restaurant. In this regard, healthcare tenants are queued up to become the next “normal” retail space users.

The bottom line is that shopping center tenant mixes and tenants themselves, have always evolved to accommodate social trends. The retail industry will continue to re-invent itself to survive – and thrive. And so will retail real estate.

Twelve Trends Will Shape The Year in Retail

Ahead: Smaller Stores, Personalization, Experience, and Tech Everywhere
Last month – January – is always “Predictions Month,” with pundits in every industry scanning the horizon for what’s ahead. We’ve reviewed most of the 2017 retail and retail real estate outlooks and wanted to share what we think is the best of the bunch. The comprehensive list that follows is from the Vend blog and includes observations from experts worldwide. Keep an eye on these twelve as the year rolls forward.

Shoppers Will Seek Retailers Who Deliver a Good In-Store Experience
1. Stores offering unique shopping experiences will thrive. “Experience” includes special additions like food services, but also the delivery of a seamless shopping experience, reflecting the online world. Crate + Barrel’s “Mobile Tote” is a good example. Shoppers use store-provided tablets to browse and note their favorites, while sales associates ready their orders.

2. Smaller stores will win out over their super-sized counterparts. Time-starved shoppers have less tolerance for navigating big spaces and look for easy-to-access inventory. Target, Best Buy and Ikea have jumped in with junior box stores. Expect more to follow.

3. Specialty stores will perform better than department stores. Building on #2 above, smaller venues with well-curated inventory and a knowledgable staff will beat the traditional department store concept. Note: those Millennials everyone is chasing are specialty store fans.

4. “Retailment” (the fusion of retail and entertainment) is the new game in town. To entice shoppers to leave their screens for an out-of-home experience, retailers will deliver everything from virtual reality to pop-ups. Note the rise of theaters that serve dinner and cocktails along with the movie.

 

Services Will Be Expected

5. Shoppers will expect same-day shipping. Consumers want the traditional gratification of having their purchase on the day they make it.

6. Personalization will be more important than ever. Shoppers want to be recognized and rewarded. Loyalty programs will step up their game with more customized offers based on buying history and other data.

 

The Reign of Tech Will Continue
7. Mobile will be the way to pay. TechCrunch predicts that there will be 447.9 million mobile payment users this year. Purchases in this mode will total $60 billion in 2017 and $503 billion in 2020. Savvy retailers will adopt whatever system fits them best, choosing from custom apps or third-party options like Apple Pay.

8. Omnichannel growth will continue. Effective omnichannel strategies will separate the winners from the losers in 2017. Vend’s retail trend watchers expect to see retailers push omnichannel in bold, new directions to deliver that seamless experience.

9. Data will continue to drive retail success. Data will be a force in every aspect of the retail process from supply chain to purchase. Collection and analysis of information will be a top focus, with social shopping making a major contribution.

10. Retail and tech will unite to deliver new ways to bring shoppers into bricks and mortar stores. Science fiction will come to shopping: the Internet of Things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robots.

11. Apps, services and third parties will help bricks and mortars compete with online. But there’s one caveat: retailers will need to be selective about the tech products and platforms that serve their particular needs. There will be many to choose from. The best options are the ones that free the user to focus on the customer.

 

Transparency and Sustainability: Must Haves for Success in 2017
12. It’s no longer enough just to sell quality products at good prices. The Internet has created a hunger for information. Shoppers want to know what goes into a product. They’re driven by both ethics and a commitment to sustainability. This trend will continue into 2017 and beyond. (Think Millennials).

If you’ve enjoyed these highlights, read the complete Vend report at:

https://www.vendhq.com/university/retail-trends-and-predictions-2017 and watch these predictions become reality.

 

 

 

 

After a Strong 2016, Our Retail Tenant’s Outlook is Optimistic

Annual LMC Outlook Survey Reveals Growth Trend, Continued Evolution
Retailers in our 95-property, 13 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio are feeling good about the future. In fact, three quarters (74.5 percent) of respondents in our annual Retail Sentiment Outlook Survey of store managers are optimistic about their anticipated 2017 performance – the highest percentage in the January poll’s six-year history. As a regional leader in retail real estate, this is the kind of news we love to hear.

Survey Respondents Report Record Sales Performance in 2016; Bricks and Mortar Stores Continued to Attract Shoppers
According to our President Matthew K. Harding, the percentage of respondents reporting 2016 sales at the same or higher level (68.8 percent) was the highest in Outlook survey history. Our finding reflects a positive year for retail nationwide. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 2016 retail sales rose 3.3 percent over 2015; for context, 2015 retail sales were up 2.1 percent from 2014.

The holiday season yielded a record performance, too, with survey respondents reporting sales and shopper traffic at the same or higher level than last year. These were the strongest in survey history at 75.6 and 74.4, respectively. “Industry experts agree that the recent holiday season was good for retail, yet some have indicated e-commerce was the real winner over bricks and mortar,” Harding said. “From a ground-level perspective we are seeing a different story – one illustrating the ongoing relevance of physical stores in our portfolio, which is comprised mostly of open-air shopping centers.”

Supporting our findings, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in its Post-Holiday Shopping Survey found consumers spent an average of $711 on gifts and seasonal items during the holidays – a 16 percent increase over 2015’s post-holiday survey results. Further, ICSC reported 91 percent of holiday shoppers spent at bricks-and-mortar locations.

Expansion Plans Are Heating Up:  A 2017 Retail Trend to Watch
When we asked survey participants about their companies’ expansion plans for 2017, more than one-third (35.1 percent) indicated their brand plans to open additional stores.

“Again, our findings may seem to counter current headlines reporting ongoing store closings by major retailers,” Harding said. “But in the 65 years we’ve been leasing and managing retail properties we have witnessed the ongoing transformation of retail. Ultimately, concepts come and go, creating opportunities for new and expanding players. Today is no different, and our tenants are proving this point.”

Qualified Job Candidates: Retail Is Facing a Growing Scarcity
The decline in unemployment and its impact on retail hiring also was addressed in the Outlook Survey. Only about one-quarter (23.6 percent) of respondents have seen changes in the hiring climate related to the tightening jobs market. Of that group, more than half (51.7 percent) indicated they are seeing fewer applications from qualified job candidates, and nearly half (46.6 percent) said they are experiencing demand for higher starting salaries.

Tenant Business Models Are Adapting to Impact of E-commerce
The e-commerce phenomenon – and its impact on bricks-and-mortar – has remained top-of-mind for us. As leaders in retail real estate we are continuing to gauge how our tenants are taking competitive action. In the 2017 Outlook Survey, we asked our tenants how they have adapted their business models in response to e-commerce’s growth.

Marking a notable jump from the last two times the question was asked, 55.2 percent of survey participants indicated they have adapted in some way. This compares to 38.2 percent of respondents in the 2016 Mid-Year Survey and 37.3 percent at mid-year 2015. Among that group, our retail tenants have:

  • Added in-store services and/or incentives (50.9 percent).
  • Added in-store pickup and returns options for purchases made online (37.9 percent).
  • Increased coordination between online and bricks-and-mortar operations (30.2 percent).
  • Added “experience” draws such as demonstrations, classes, performances or other in-store events (28.4 percent).
  • Altered store inventory, such as having fewer in-stock SKUs or larger quantities of popular items (25.0 percent).
  • Altered store prototype, such as reducing store size or increasing focus on showrooming (17.2 percent).

In turn, 57.5 percent of the respondents who have adapted in response to e-commerce say they have seen a benefit in terms of sales and/or in-store traffic. That percentage compares to 43.0 percent at mid-year 2016 and 52.1 percent at mid-year 2015.

“In our last two mid-year surveys, about one-third of tenants (32.9 percent and 30.9 percent) were unsure of whether their efforts were making a positive impact,” said Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing. “The number shrank to less than a quarter (24.4 percent) in the 2017 Outlook Survey, indicating that tenants are beginning to see more measurable results.

“This is very good news in an environment requiring retailers to continually reinvent themselves,” she added. “We anticipate continued changes as our tenants strive to establish the best mix of services and incentives, and elevate and personalize the shopping experience to draw customers into their stores.”

Levin Mid-Year Survey Yields Strongest YTD Sales Report in Poll’s History

Influential Retail Real Estate Trends Include Technology and E-Commerce
The results of our mid-year Retail Sentiment Survey are in and the news is good, with our tenants reporting strong year-to-date performance. They’re optimistic about the months ahead and are continuing to leverage technology to stay competitive in the e-commerce-influenced retail landscape.

Retail Real Estate Tenants Cite Numerous Causes for Optimism
Our latest poll of store managers in our 95-property, 13 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio yielded the strongest percentage (65.8 percent) of participants in the survey’s five-year history reporting mid-year sales at the same or a higher volume year over year. This represents a jump from 51.9 percent reporting same-or-higher sales at mid-year 2015 and 42.9 percent at mid-year 2014. Similarly, 61.3 percent of participants reported the same or a higher volume of shopper traffic to date in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Retail is experiencing solid momentum following the stock market volatility and bankruptcy announcements that kicked off the year,” said our president Matthew K. Harding. “The latest retail sales data from the U.S. Commerce Department, which shows a 2.4 percent year-over-year increase for March to May, reinforces what our tenants are saying. At this year’s International Council of Shopping Centers’ well-attended RECon in Las Vegas, expansion was an overarching theme among national retailers – another confirmation of a positive trajectory.”

So, it’s no surprise that a full 67.0 percent of our survey participants expect sales to continue at the same pace or improve through the remainder of 2016.

The Digital Revolution is Here to Stay
Like most savvy retailers, tenants at our leased and managed properties are employing digital technology – such as online ads, mobile apps, social media, email and texting – to attract customers to their stores. And our survey found that technology’s importance is growing. Of respondents active in tech-centered marketing, 42.4 percent have upped its usage year over year; while 52.7 percent said their usage levels had remained at the same level.

Retail Real Estate Trends: Digital is Reaching Customers Everywhere
When it comes to engaging customers in-store, mobile device apps (such as those for coupons, discounts, loyalty points and/or rapid payment) are the most popular tools – employed by 69.9 percent of respondents active in tech-centered marketing. Levin tenants appear to be on the right track; a recent ICSC customer engagement survey found that two thirds of consumers in the U.S. use their mobile devices while shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. Other popular tools among survey participants include free in-store Wi-Fi (49.3 percent), post-sale online surveys (41.9 percent) and electronic receipts (28.7 percent).

Levin tenants are going with tech to reach customers outside their stores. “For the second year, social media and email ranked as most popular among survey respondents active in tech-centered marketing, used by 79.4 and 78.1 percent, respectively,” said Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing. “The power of these tools is clear, and social should be on everyone’s radar. In fact, a Deloitte study found that ‘shoppers are 29 percent more likely to make a purchase the same day when they use social media to help shop.’ ”

Facebook Leads the Social Media Marketing Pack
Among Levin survey participants with social media in their marketing mix, Facebook dominates, with 91.3 percent of respondents using it. Other popular platforms include Twitter (36.9 percent), Instagram (34.2 percent) and Google+ (32.2 percent).

Business Models are Evolving as Tech Expands
As bricks-and-mortar stores seek success online, many retailers are finding new ways to serve and engage customers. Our retail real estate tenants are no exception. In our mid-year 2016 poll, 38.2 percent of participants indicated they have adapted their business model in response to e-commerce growth.

Those respondents are adding in-store services and incentives (62.7 percent), offering in-store pickup and returns options for online purchases (57.6 percent); and/or increasing collaboration with their online counterparts (44.1 percent). Some are altering store inventory (35.6 percent); introducing “experience” draws (30.5 percent); and/or changing their store prototypes (13.6 percent).

“We expect the experiential retail trend, especially, to gain momentum,” Sievwright said. “The re-invention of this industry is well underway, driven both by tech advances and new shopper preferences. Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are opting to invest in experiences over things. Smart companies are melding lifestyle with shopping and giving consumers a reason to step into the store.”

Study Finds That the Vast Majority of Americans Shop Online

But…Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Are Still Dominant by a Wide Margin
Online shopping is no longer a trend. It’s now a way of life in America, with 96 percent of the respondents in a recent study saying they shop online. All demographic groups – from Millennials to Seniors – are turning to their various screens for making a purchase. And, they’re loving the experience, ranking it ahead of smartphone GPS and streaming media as “something they can’t live without.” Big Commerce, an e-commerce platform, and Kelton Global, research consultants, discovered these facts and more in a March 2016 study of 1,000 shoppers. Their findings have been reported by Chain Store Age (see article) and other retail industry media.

The massive report is also well worth a read for leaders in retail real estate. But before you dive into all the findings, check out these ten highlights.

1.Good News for Retail Real Estate
Shoppers love online, but 64 percent of those surveyed still buy in bricks-and-mortars. This includes Millennials – 44 percent said they shop in stores. Women make more shopping trips than men. Men buy more online.

2.More Good News for Retail Real Estate
Survey respondents said their least favorite aspects of online shopping were: inability to touch and feel merchandise, shipping charges, exchanges, and waiting for delivery.

3.Brick-and-Mortar Websites are Online Shopping Hubs
Twenty-five percent of respondents in the Big Commerce study had shopped at the website of a brick-and-mortar store.

 4.Favorite Features of Online Shopping
No surprises here. Shoppers choose online for convenience and speed of sale.

 5.Most Online Dollars Go to E-Commerce Marketplaces
Big Commerce’s respondents spent an average of $488 last year on sites like Amazon and eBay. Their second highest spending level was on the sites of major online/offline brands ($409).

6.What Do Online Shoppers Want on Websites?
Online shoppers want images, video demonstrations, customer reviews, and product comparison – all the things that bring an item to life.

 7.How Do Shoppers Choose an E-Commerce Site?
Price is the main driver (87 percent), followed closely by free shipping and speed (80 percent).

8.Shipping Costs are a Major Stumbling Block to Online Sales
Online shoppers are super-resistant to paying for shipping. Two-thirds of those in the Big Commerce study said they had abandoned their shopping carts when they saw the shipping charges.

9.Social Commerce is on the Rise

Thirty percent of the respondents said they were open to buying through a social media network. More than half the Millennials were ready to shop on social. Facebook and Pinterest were the social platforms of choice.

10.Online Shopping is Everywhere and Round the Clock
In retail stores, in the car, in the office – 24/7 – people are shopping online. Forty-three percent shop in bed and 20 percent shop while in the bathroom. Ten percent admit to shopping under the influence of alcohol (13 percent of them Millennials and 17 percent Gen-Xers). Maybe this is why 42 percent of Big Commerce’s respondents admitted regretting an online purchase, and 21 percent said they had bought something online “by accident.”