This article first appeared on Bleeding Cool’s website on January 30th, as part of the series “Managing Your Shop” by Manage Comics.

2019 was a tough year for Brick and Mortar shops, but 2020 is already looking better. Stores are still reeling from the effects of online shopping, rent prices are in a constant state of flux, comics sales have been relatively flat, and retailers are still learning to adjust to new ways of doing business.

I know it is easy to get lost in this fast-changing business world, but this whole piece is a sunrise article. Here are my predictions for retail changes in 2020 and how to adapt. The good times are far from over, there’s light on the horizon, and there is plenty to be optimistic about.

1. The End of the Retail Apocalypse

Digital shopping has been on a steady rise since the late 1990’s, and online sales have become entirely mainstream. However, real connections and true “white glove service” remain two features that the physical store experience excel at.

So yes, brick and mortar stores will be important in 2020 as they have been for the last few decades. No bot or personalization tool can replace the social aspect of shopping.  Online brands including Casper and Amazon have introduced brick and mortar experiences.

However, the retail game has changed, and only those who have learned from the mistakes of the past will survive and prosper.

First, customers want personalized customer service (more on that later), they want the convenience of mobile technology. There are more searches on mobile than PC, 63% of users use their mobiles when in stores to compare prices, to get coupons and promotions. 67% of these customers rely on such promotions to determine where to shop.

Brick and mortar shops are here to stay, but only the fast-learners will survive.

2. Personalized Customer Service

According to a BRP survey, 79% of customers say customized service when shopping is a factor when determining where to shop. Customers are also willing to share data after receiving personalized service.

What about customer retention? 44% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase again from a retailer if she offers personalized service.

You also get to increase the order size as customers are willing to buy more comics. If not, they will buy a more expensive comic from you. Finally, better customer experience helps reduce returns by about 5%.

3. Agility and Efficiency – Online is Going Offline

Previously, retail had been segmented into online and offline, and it’s just now that it is heading to a more consolidated model.

Perhaps the best example of this is Amazon. When you thought they had killed brick and mortar stores, they end up setting up one. 56.4% of companies that had integrated online and offline experienced an increase in sales revenue, and 71% say their inventory costs had decreased.

Customers are increasingly viewing products online, but prefer to buy them offline. So, an online-only strategy will do you no good, and neither will an offline-only approach. Unbounded retail (the combination of online and offline shopping), on the other hand, will do wonders for your comic business.

4. Social Shopping

Customers want a seamless experience, and social shopping is one way to do this. Together with visual search, social shopping has been skyrocketing. The ability to click on a photo of your favorite comic on Instagram or Pinterest to buy is enticing and quite straightforward.

Instagram holds great potential for your store. You can add your location to your bio to increase footfall, and a bio link to increase traffic to your website. You can add a call to action on your posts encouraging people to call to place orders or to interact. Finally, you can use stories to highlight new comics saving your followers’ time.

5. E-mail Lists

As of 2019, more than half the world uses email, and the number is expected to increase to 4.3-billion by 2023. Also, email marketing happens to be the cheapest marketing method, but with the highest conversion rate.

This presents a great opportunity for your comic store. You can reach a significant number of your customers at no cost, and you can tailor-make messages to their tastes. And remember how customers rely on promotions when deciding where to shop? Well, you can craft promo emails, and promote the unique features your store offers that they won’t find anywhere else.

6. The Store is a Destination

The stores that will thrive have a “unique selling proposition” in marketing terms – the thing that makes someone choose them over someone else.

In the best stores, the unique selling proposition is the employees. Friendly, knowledgable people who can make comics more enjoyable, and who just by their sheer presence make you want to buy more comics!

From Game nights, to signings, through hosting Live Podcasts, comic shops have changed from mere places of commerce to destinations. People have tons of entertainment options, and the comic store needs to be a place where people want to be.

The Takeaway

Comic stores have evolved from where they were in the 1970’s. The best shops take advantage of online tools to create buzz and word of mouth that makes their store a destination. Online might be a good experience for many, but nothing can beat the in-person experience of a brick and mortar location.

2020 may still be a roller-coaster, but if you are armed with the right information and tools, you can survive and thrive!

Manage Comics is putting the finishing touches on our next big project to help comic retailers, we’ve called it “The One Hour Hero“, and it will be a series of one hour tasks that will help you make significant changes to your store, and help you thrive in 2020.  We’ll talk about things like getting more traffic through Google, surveying your customers, and even the best way to set up an email list.  Simple, effective things that will help you become the best your store can be.

And speaking of tools, Manage Comics helps with customer service by having one place where customers can update their subscription lists, and manage Special Orders in a convenient place that also helps stores with the ordering process.