What’s Happening to the In-Store Experience?


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The rise of ecommerce has happened fast, and it won’t be long before online sales outpace revenue from brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers are becoming more comfortable making purchases online, and the web offers a much wider range of products and services than physical store locations.

But research is showing that there is still a place for brick-and-mortar in a digital world. In fact, Retail Touch Points found that 85 percent of consumers say that they would rather browse and make purchases in a real store than shop online.

The ability to touch and feel products in person is still the superior shopping experience for most. Additionally, 36 percent of shoppers would rather not wait for items to ship, while 30 percent find value in the advice of employees present in a brick-and-mortar environment. 

Not surprisingly, many online-only retail brands are taking to the streets and trying their hand at ‘old-fashioned’ storefront retail. As CNBC points out, brands such as Warby Parker and Bonobos have made successful transitions to the brick-and-mortar realm, as shoppers finally get the chance to get hands-on with the popular apparel.

Another great example is Montreal’s online retail start-up Frank and Oak, who is in the process of launching 6 new brick-and-mortar stores in the US. According to TechCrunch, “Though online shopping continues to grow, ecommerce brands are looking for ways to connect to their consumers beyond the mediation of a screen.”


What is the role of the physical store?

It’s clear that traditional shopping still plays a key part in the modern market, but the role of brick-and-mortar has certainly changed with the emergence of the omni-channel experience. The digital influence cannot be denied, and to meet the demands of today’s consumers, brands need to rethink how they coordinate in-store and online experiences. Let’s look at a few ways in which companies are reshaping these shopping dynamics and leading the charge for the next generation of retail.

Many brands are using their real estate to facilitate in-store pickups for items purchased online. For example, in-store pickups accounted for over 30 percent of Sam’s Club’s total ecommerce sales in 2015, according to eMarketer. The appeal of in-store pickup is a one-two punch of time and cost savings for consumers, eMarketer noted, with over 80 percent of survey respondents stating that they would take this option if it meant reduced prices and wait times. 

As a report from McKinsey and Company pointed out, the click-and-collect phenomenon is reflective of a bigger trend in the brick-and-mortar space: shoppers will utilize physical store environments if they offer tangible value. This can be in the form of convenience, efficiency, information, assistance, inspiration and even entertainment. Depending on the nature of the consumer demand, stores can shift shapes, sizes, staffing, supply and location. 

Identifying the right retail mix requires a great deal of input from various factors, such as business priorities, customer preferences, market trends and individual store economics. “Some retailers are adapting their store formats to the tastes and preferences of certain customer segments,” wrote authors Louise Herring, Tobias Wachinger, and Chris Wigley.

In short, the role of brick-and-mortar in the multi-channel world is a fluid one, depending on many variables.


The incredible influence of digital

Brands are certainly taking a more scientific approach to creating storefront experiences, but how does multi-channel shopping impact the bottom-line results of retail revenue? As eMarketer reported, 98 percent of companies believe that in-store customers are influenced by the use of digital devices as they research products and compare prices across the web, and this trend will only gain momentum into the future.  

According to a TimeTrade survey, while 42 percent percent of customers have not yet made a purchase on a smartphone or tablet, 61 percent use these devices to compare prices, and 50 percent use them to research products. Every customer will have a unique set of preferences for discovering new products and collecting information before a purchase. 

Rather than forcing customers to adopt a digital or brick-and-mortar approach to retail, brands must accept the fact that there is no longer a right or wrong way to shop.

As Thierry Hay-Sabourin, VP of ecommerce at Best Buy, recently said when he sat down with Marketing Mag, “We don’t see the customer as the in-store customer or the online customer. They’re just the customer.”

Therefore, retail brands need to facilitate seamless experiences that span the digital and physical realms, and provide personalized support each step of the way. Retailers that fully adopt this customer-centric mindset will be the ones to deliver the best possible experiences. 


Identifying areas of improvement

As stated in Retail Touch Points, retailers need to understand the “wants and needs” of their customers if they want to successfully navigate this new chapter of in-store shopping. This means that reliable streams of data from the voice of the customer are required to inform brands which areas they need to focus on in their development.

Not all forms of feedback are equal, of course. The most accurate and authentic type comes in the moment of truth, directly after a customer has accomplished (or attempted to complete) a specific task on a website or in-store, whether it is gathering new information from product pages, seeking support from a live representative or making a purchase in-store. With details about every aspect of the omni-channel experience, retailers can better bridge the gaps from the online to the brick-and-mortar experience.

At the end of the day it’s all about experience, and providing the most seamlessly experience for the customer whether they are physically in your store or on your website.

Image source: Flickr

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Duff Anderson
Duff Anderson is a visionary in digital Voice of the Customer research with over 20 years' experience. As SVP and Co-founder at iPerceptions, Duff is responsible for providing expert advice to organizations on how to gain a competitive advantage across the digital customer lifecycle and become more customer-centric.


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