While brick and mortar retail may not be dying, retailers are struggling more than ever with today’s rapidly changing consumer expectations. Below is an article hand-picked by the Buzzbassador team that discusses this trend, and how physical retailers can combat it.
Retail isn’t dead, but retailers who treat their craft as a dying art can’t survive in an ecosystem of rapidly changing consumer expectations.
I’ve spent much of my 20-plus-year career working with brick-and-mortar retailers and have seen firsthand just how fast the industry moves.
Everyone with an internet connection recognizes the pressures e-commerce puts on retailers and are seeing these changes, too. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce (via Digital Commerce 360), in 2019 alone, U.S. consumers spent $601.75 billion online, an increase of 14.9% from the previous year.
When buyers can find almost anything on Amazon — and get anything not on Amazon from dozens of niche sites — simply stocking good products at competitive prices isn’t enough. Rather than sit back and reflect on the glory days when retail was easy, retailers should gear up for battle with a new angle: the superior customer experience.
What Research Says About Retail’s Future
My company recently released a new report, The State of Consumer Behavior 2020, that gathered insights from 1,000 U.S. consumers. Our research confirmed some common suspicions about retail’s future while shedding light on some unexpected changes that could be on the horizon.
Younger people unsurprisingly prefer online shopping more frequently than older people do. The difference, however, is smaller than detractors of brick-and-mortar might expect. According to our research, 55.1% of people ages 17 to 34 prefer to shop online, while 57.5% of people older than 34 prefer to shop at physical locations. And a 2018 Periscope by McKinsey study (via Inc.) found that millennial shoppers were the largest group in every country surveyed, except for the U.K., to only or mostly undertake their shopping for consumer packaged good (CPG) products online.
Our survey found that people who shop online do so most often for convenience (47.8%), exclusive discounts (15.4%) and speedy transactions (11.9%). Younger people have a stronger affinity for discount codes than their older peers at 22.3%, suggesting that younger shoppers are more budget-conscious than older ones, at least when shopping digitally.
Offline shoppers appreciate the ability to see and touch products in person and named tangibility as their top reason to shop in stores (40.4%). The in-store experience came in a close second at 38.4%. Across all categories, people preferred to shop in person when they want something in a specific category, such as cleaning supplies, personal accessories or electronics. And the McKinsey survey found that among CPG products, “non-perishable items like canned goods are more likely to be bought online than something like bread.”
People are shopping more online than ever, but our research suggests that people are shopping more across all channels. According to the report, 76.3% of respondents are shopping more or the same amount online, while 68% of respondents are shopping more or the same amount in stores.
Turns out, the death of retail has been greatly exaggerated. Some stores and brands continue to close locations, however, which leads to the real question: What can retailers do to keep shoppers coming back?
The Best Retail Strategy For The 2020s
Research suggests that people still need physical stores in their lives. Shoppers often want to see and touch products before they buy, even when those products stay in the packaging. More than that, though, I believe the in-store experience defines retail for people. Touching products is part of that experience, but helpful staff, well-organized showrooms, unexpected activities, smart technologies and other components all combine to create exceptional experiences.
To provide better in-store experiences for customers, try these easy tips:
Legitimize The Customer Service Reps
Instead of limiting team roles to salespeople and cashiers, train store staff to fulfill more engaging purposes. Educate employees more about the products and brands in the store so they can act as friends and consultants to shoppers. Someone shopping online can’t walk around with a real human and get advice, but those human connections can differentiate retail from e-commerce alternatives.
Host Special Events
I’ve found that today’s consumers, especially young ones, love experiences. Give them what they want by hosting special events in stores. A kitchenware shop, for instance, could bring in a pop-up from a local bakery. A movie theater could join with the local comic shop to set up a merch tent before new releases. Make sure to include photo opportunities and easy sharing suggestions to help spread the word on social media.
Integrate Digital And Physical Loyalty
When shoppers set up accounts on store websites, those accounts typically do nothing but put users on lists for marketing emails and remember shipping addresses. By giving loyalists a few perks in stores, retailers can give shoppers a reason to keep coming back. Even non-chain stores can get in on the action. Notify loyalists about special events, provide free perks or exclusive services, and give people more physical reasons to sign up.
Retail remains a challenging landscape, but for industry veterans, that’s nothing new. I believe e-commerce will continue to expand. Customers will continue to seek new and better experiences. Savvy retailers will look to the future as they create the delightful experiences modern audiences crave.
Original Story Published on April 9, 2020 by Forbes.