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Annual Store Manager Poll Explores Tactics, Reveals Solid YTD Performance

NORTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. (July 11, 2024) — With brick-and-mortar retail continuing to show its resilience and agility through the first half of 2024, technology trends took center stage in Levin Management Corporation (LMC)’s annual Mid-Year Retail Sentiment Survey. Nearly 40% of the retail store managers responding to the poll reported making new tech investments this year, reflecting a push to strengthen marketing initiatives and improve customer service.  

“Retailers are working to shape shopping experiences to meet consumers’ wants and needs, and to reach potential clients through diverse channels,” said Matthew K. Harding, LMC’s chief executive officer. “As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, retailers are finding – and embracing – its value on both fronts.”  

Understanding the Consumer 
More than half (55.3%) of LMC survey respondents are actively employing technology to analyze customer and/or sales data for the purpose of merchandising, creating services/menu options, planning in-location events or creating individualized special offers. For the first time, LMC asked these tech-employing retailers whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) is part of their tech toolbox. Approximately 12% of survey participants are already using AI in some form, while nearly 21% are currently exploring how AI could potentially aid their businesses. 

“AI is one of the hottest topics in the business world today, and this industry is no exception,” Harding said. “While the conversation is in its early stages, there is no doubt the use of predictive AI and other analytical tools will have a monumental impact on retail decision-making. There are myriad applications ranging from strengthening inventory management, to augmenting communication and fostering personalized customer experiences.”  

Digital Marketing Survey Highs 
The 2024 mid-year poll marks the 10th time LMC has asked its store managers about their use of digital marketing tools – and the results reflect some notable survey highs. Email marketing, social media and text messaging have ranked as the most-used digital marketing tools for several years, and that continues in 2024. This year, however, the percentages of respondents using those tools are the highest in survey history, reflecting notable jumps over the respective three-year trailing averages.  

  • 83.0% report using e-mail marketing, compared to a trailing three-year average of 77.5%.
  • 80.3% use social media, compared to a trailing three-year average of 73.9%.
  • 64.6% say they use text messaging for marketing purposes, compared to a trailing three-year average of 53.4%.  

“These figures indicate retailers are implementing these technology tools at levels not previously seen in our survey,” said LMC’s Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing. “Email, social media and texting are all ‘tried and true’ channels for reaching consumers. It’s encouraging to see our tenants leveraging them for engagement.” 

For survey participants who incorporate social media in their marketing mix, Facebook (used by 89.7%), Instagram (used by 76.5%) and TikTok (used by 32.4%) remain the three most popular platforms.  

“There is no denying the power of social media, where companies can continually promote their image to followers and influencers, augment their organic posting activity with inexpensive advertising and even sell directly via social commerce,” Sievwright noted. “A recent study by PYMTS Intelligence found 43% of consumers browse social media to locate goods and services. That same study shows TikTok, Instagram and Facebook having the highest conversion rates. Our tenants are certainly on track.” 

Accommodation is Key 
Nearly 70% of LMC survey respondents offer an online option for purchasing goods, scheduling appointments for services or placing orders for pick-up. About 56% provide in-store, online ordering (with free shipping) for out-of-stock items. “The omnichannel experience is well established, but it is always interesting to see the supporting data,” Sievwright said. “Consumers shop in so many different ways – we might do some research and price compare online, yet still want the touch and feel of the physical product before we buy it. Retailers are doing a great deal to accommodate that.” 

The survey also explored how retailers are using technology in-store to provide incentives and convenience for their shoppers. Popular options in 2024 include digital coupons, discounts and/or loyalty points (offered by 63.7%); free Wi-Fi (offered by 49.3%); and electronic receipts (offered by 43.8%).   

Repeat Performance 
Beyond providing technology trends insight, the LMC survey findings indicate 2024 is shaping up to be another strong year for brick-and-mortar performance, with 66.9% of participants saying their year-to-date sales are the same or higher compared to mid-year 2023, and 69.5% saying their traffic is at a similar or higher level. And their outlook is positive, with 79.6% expecting sales to maintain or increase pace through the end of the year.  

For seven decades, LMC has served as a single-source commercial real estate services provider for institutional, family office and high-net-worth investors/owners. The firm’s next Retail Sentiment surveys, which poll retail store managers in the firm’s 125-property, more than 16 million-square-foot leasing and management portfolio, will be conducted in October/November, gauging expectations and plans for the holiday season, and in January, exploring outlooks for the coming year. The award-winning survey program reflects the firm’s commitment to understanding issues and trends impacting retailers from a street-level perspective.    


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