It’s probably no surprise that online retail sales continue to achieve new heights. In fact, according to Iperceptions, the US Commerce Department recently reported that Q2 2017 e-commerce sales were predicted to reach as much as $111.5 billion, an increase of 16.2% over last year. These numbers have led many to believe that it’s the beginning of the end of the in-store experience.
But as Iperceptions points out, there is still a place for brick-and-mortar stores in a world seemingly dominated by digital technology. This is evident in Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods. Additionally, Vistaprint will be opening its first brick-and-mortar store after 20 of business. The decision to provide an offline experience was apparently the result of listening to its customers, who wanted a place where they could actually see, touch, and feel the products.
The Role of Physical Stores
Despite the ease and accessibility of Ecommerce, RetailDIVE confirms that the majority of American consumers still want the tangible experiences offered by physical stores.
1. Tactile Experience: In their study of consumer shopping habits, RetailDIVE reveals that for 62% of consumers, the primary motivation for shopping in stores versus online is to see and try out products before purchasing.
2. Immediate Gratification: Coming in second, 49% of shoppers want their products now and want them fast. This segment of shoppers chooses to shop at physical stores over the web because they want to take items home immediately, suggesting that two-day—and even next day shipping—still can’t compete with the immediate gratification of purchasing products in-store and walking out the door with items in hand.
3. Easier Returns: The RetailDIVE survey also indicates that one in five consumers (20%), say that easier returns are another key reason for shopping in-store versus online. This fact led marketplace giant, Amazon, to require sellers to offer free returns.
4. Enjoyment: Notwithstanding the booming e-commerce movement, approximately 18% of consumers surveyed seek the enjoyment—and presumably the social aspect—of going shopping in stores.
5. Ask Store Associates Questions: Finally, the ability to ask store associates questions, though low on the list at just 13%, still ranks as one of the reasons consumers prefer to shop in stores vs. online. With virtually every type of information available at their fingertips and on mobile devices, retailers need to make sure their employees are well trained and able to field questions better than Google so that when consumers do visit their store, they’re prepared to offer superior product knowledge that yields exceptional customer service.
While these statistics are certainly good news for physical stores, 7% of respondents still say online is the only way they shop, and it’s a trend that’s expected to surge in the coming years. That’s why retailers must up their game to create compelling in-store shopping experiences, suggests RetailDIVE.
Understanding & Embracing Customer Needs is The Key
“Retailers need to understand the “wants and needs” of their customers if they want to successfully navigate this new chapter of in-store shopping,” says Iperceptions.
With 90% of consumers using their phone while shopping in stores, retailers must accept that rather than forcing customers to adopt a digital or brick-and-mortar approach to retail, there is no longer a right or wrong way to shop. In fact, 98% of companies are coming to terms with the fact that in-store customers are influenced by the use of digital devices as they research products and compare prices across the web.
As the VP of Ecommerce at Best Buy told Marketing Mag, “We don’t see the customer as the in-store customer or the online customer. They’re just the customer.”
“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.”
Despite the blitz of online competition and the investment dollars being applied to e-commerce capabilities, brick-and-mortar retailers shouldn’t lose sight of their physical store strategy.
Traditional shopping still plays a key role in our modern market, and in order to meet the demand of today’s consumers, RetailDIVE advises businesses to rethink how they coordinate in-store and online experiences:
“Brick-and-mortar holds an advantage for its ability to satisfy shoppers’ needs to try out products and immediately take them home. A compelling in-store shopping experience where shoppers can easily see, feel and try-out products — coupled with stellar inventory management to ensure product is in stock — can make or break physical retailers.”