For 43% of the global population, the term “retail therapy” has taken on new meaning. No longer do we have to worry about parking spaces and when stores open and close. The retailers we love are available to us 24×7 and as close as the nearest mobile device or computer.
But does this mean that every store and mall will fall victim to the convenience of online shopping? Not so fast – at least that’s what 76% of shoppers are saying.
According to the Zebra Technologies 2015 Global Shopper Study, brick-and-mortar stores are still proving to be a critical part of the overall retail strategy, generating over 90% of sales today. What has changed is consumer affinity for stores that use the latest technology and offer convenience and personalization.
Why brick-and-mortar should be a critical part of your digital commerce strategy
Without a doubt, retail stores are experiencing less foot traffic. However, e-commerce is not the sole blame. Rather, consumers are being accustomed to researching products online before heading to the store. Simply put, customers are not browsing the store floor or making impulse purchases; instead, their decisions are becoming more conscientious and purposeful.
The good news is that consumers still value the immersive, sensory experience traditional stores offer. Unlike e-commerce sites, the physical store environment allows them to touch, try on, and even demo merchandise before the transaction is made. And for most shoppers, this experience can mean a difference between a wasted dollar and a valued brand relationship.
First, the store floor needs a digital makeover
The reality of nonstop digital disruption is changing how consumers want to be serviced. In fact, Zebra’s study revealed that shoppers prefer store that provide self-help technology designed to make the experience more efficient, flexible, and convenient:
- 67% use price checkers to view the precise cost of an item
- 58% like electronic shelf labels that display the at-the-moment price of an item
- 58% prefer shelf-checkout payment lanes and terminals
- 56% view kiosks that offer product information and availability as helpful
- 51% anticipate “smart” carts that locate merchandise and accelerate checkout
While these self-help technologies are useful, shoppers still place a high premium on customer service. However, the definition of “good customer service” is evolving along with buying behaviors. The Zebra study states, “For one, a seamless purchasing journey between online, mobile and in-store channels has become more important to consumers. To that end, retailers are expanding their ‘buy online, pick up in store’ service to more stores based on customer demand for this convenience. They’re also trying new twists on the concept, such as reserve online and try on in-store.” The study even notes that equipping sales associates with technology – such as handheld mobile computers, mobile point-of-sale devices, tablets, and smartphones – are proving to be heightening customer service.
Giving customers a reason to come back for more
By fusing digital experiences with the personal, human touch of a brick-and-mortar store, both sides of the purchase experience is greatly improved. Associates are happier because the frustration of tracking down a particular item in the right size and color is removed. More important, consumers can get what they want, when they want it – and most likely tempted to purchase more merchandise than initially intended.
I know this may sound like Retail 101. However, in retail, customer satisfaction rules. At the same time, consumers want to be confident that they are purchasing merchandise that best fit their needs. And sometimes, that cannot be done just by looking at a screen.
So I implore retailers: The next time you take a look at your digital strategy, remember the store. They just may be your secret weapon to creating the experience your shoppers crave.
Want more insight on the future of shopping? See Will Shopping Become A Game?