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The past few years have had an incredible impact on in-store shopping. Many brands were forced to shut their doors and expedite online sales strategies to keep a steady revenue stream. But as we begin to get back to a sense of “normalcy,” consumers have reverted back to their traditional methods of shopping. The in-store shopping experience can never be replaced, but it does need to be improved.

When we consider the methods that have successfully held onto existing customers as well as garnering new ones, there is a common theme: personalization. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that personalizing the customer experience is what keeps consumers coming back time and time again. People have become more careful about where they’re spending their money, and they want to feel appreciated and valued.

So how can brands apply this strategy to their brick-and-mortar stores? It’s actually quite simple — they must place more of an emphasis on understanding their audience. When retailers truly understand their audience, they’re able to curate merchandise to meet their specific needs.

If someone constantly goes into a store that doesn’t carry their size, or is met with styles that aren’t really considered “on-trend” wherever they live, it’s more than likely that they won’t return. But if a store takes time to meet its customers where they are, it makes them feel seen and understood. Whenever a customer opens their wallet, they need to feel this. Taking that extra step of ensuring that what they’re coming into the store to buy is available is the best way to guarantee this happens.

This type of localization benefits the consumer by providing a more seamless, personalized and successful shopping experience, and it benefits the retailer by increasing customer loyalty and overall sales. But how does one gather this type of information? What many brands don’t realize is that they have the ability to drill down who their audience is in specific stores or locations by taking a detailed look at customer journey trends.

The customer journey is defined by where the merchandise goes between its creation in the factory to the customer’s closet. In other words, is the merchandise moving? Is it being tried on and then abandoned? Tried on and purchased? Or is it not being tried on at all?

Taking this into consideration and tracking this type of customer behavior allows retailers to better understand what products are resonating with their audience. It also allows them to ensure they have the right amount of inventory — as opposed to being overstocked with products that aren’t selling or lacking in popular items. Most of the time, when someone goes shopping in-store, it’s because they’re looking to walk away with an item that day. If a store is devoid of desired colors or sizes, or the product itself, this will inevitably result in customer dissatisfaction.

So what does this mean for the future of retail? It means putting your customers first and leveraging localization to increase sales and customer loyalty. With an impending recession and inflation on the rise, it’s more important than ever to be thoughtful about what you are — and aren’t — putting on the shelves.

Retailers don’t have the bandwidth or budget to make careless decisions about the merchandise they’re carrying. They need to be sure it will sell, and that means understanding different markets. What might sell out in New York City may not sell at all in Boise, Idaho. And this goes beyond just location — are the size counts you’re carrying in your store meeting your local audiences and maximized for their engagement? Even the climate has an impact. For example, you wouldn’t want a year-round stock of beachwear in Nebraska, or puffer coats in Arizona.

All in all, localization is key. It shows you’re being thoughtful about your customers and their needs, evolving with the times, and recognizing trends. The list goes on, and it’s overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, an increase in sales is the goal of any company or brand. But those repeat customers that trust you enough to consistently come back with confidence that they’ll find what they’re looking for? That’s what matters the most. Those are the types of customers that will recommend your store to their friends, post about you on social media or leave a positive review. When combined, this fosters a more successful environment. It also allows you to be more scalable and strategic when it comes to your marketing, etc.

Understanding your audience means going beyond your focus stores and looking at each store on its own. It’s something everyone has the ability to do, and it’s guaranteed to help both retailers and consumers and have a hugely positive impact on your business.