Surprise! The Case for In-store Shopping Just Got Stronger

It’s weird to think that department stores have become—as an article on Forbes puts it—the horse and buggy of the 21st century. In 2019 alone, retailers have announced more than 8,600 store closures according to an analysis by Business Insider.

That being said, new research from Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates revealed that at least 99% of consumers have shopped in a physical store in the past 12 months.

We’ve heard it said, and we’ve read it, too…Retail is not dead. But is has changed, and will continue to do so. Stores that don’t adapt, face the same “cart and buggy fate” of department stores.

Historically, says Forbes, stores—whether physical or digital—have existed for five reasons:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Immediate Gratification
  3. Convenience
  4. Taction (being able to touch, feel, try products on, and getting help or confidence in a purchase)
  5. Experience (the memory/social delight derived from being somewhere)

While online can offer inspiration, convenience, and in some cases, semi-immediate gratification, they’re still not able to offer the tactile experiences that physical stores do. And guess what? Shoppers still want that.

In fact, according to Retail Dive, at least half of survey respondents reported that they’d be willing to forego lower product prices online in exchange for personalized assistance or advice from an in-store associate.

Big retail chains such as Target and Walmart continue to be bolstered by the convenience of one-stop-shopping and location attractiveness. But what happens when direct-to-consumer grocery takes hold?

“In the end, it all comes down to experience—the social joy of being in physical places,” says Forbes. If physical stores want to stay relevant, they’ll need to move beyond four walls that house products, a concept that offers absolutely no differentiation in a day and age when consumers no longer need them in order to buy product.

Whether you add a manicure station, an exercise class, or food and beverage, Rachel Shechtman (Founder of Story) suggests the following:

“There is a solid chance that you can be using square footage more productively. We don’t need another retailer selling jeans and black pants, unless they bring a point of view and an experience that no one else has.”

Final Thoughts…

“Consumers still want the experience of in-store retail, and the numbers show they’re also looking for personalized assistance,” asserts Daniel Spiegel, managing director of Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates. “Retailers can drive people to stores by creating stellar experiences and customer service.”

With 68% of surveyed consumers reporting that they “look for in-store experiences” when they shop in a physical store, it’s clear that the desire for in-store shopping remains strong, but retailers will need to get more creative with their physical spaces in order to attract consumers.

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.