The following excerpt, from the article Create an Omnichannel Retail Strategy for Greater Brand Loyalty, was written by David Rich for ICC Decision Services. Rich offers excellent advice on how retail is evolving and why brick-and-mortar retailers still hold an important place in the shopping experience. View his full article for more information about how showrooming impacts shopping and what you can do to counteract it.
There’s no doubt the retail landscape has changed drastically since the introduction of eCommerce to the business world.
Although online shopping continues to grow nationwide, companies are beginning to take a fresh look at what makes the in-store experience valuable to shoppers given the assumed ease and convenience online outlets have to offer.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in-store purchases still make up the majority of sales transactions going on day-to-day. When we zoom in to see how eCommerce is affecting certain kinds of products, categories like books, clothing, and electronics are seeing some of the highest percentages of online sales, yet companies like Barnes and Noble continue to maintain a strong in-store component to their retail strategy.
With a study by the NPD Group finding 48% of book and stationary sales now taking place through online outlets (and growing), the future for bookstores may seem shaky. With people turning to the convenience of eBooks, why do people bother making the effort to meander the bookshelves inside physical stores anymore?
The answer is simple: innovation doesn’t mean completely converting your retail presence to the Internet—in-store customer experience remains the strongest component of consistent retail activity.
Shopping online for books is perhaps one of the least exciting ways to immerse yourself in the experience of discovering new things to read. Barnes and Noble realized this and consequently made their stores into exactly what people can’t get online: a place to sit down, drink a coffee, and thumb through some potential purchases in a social environment. As a result, they’re able to provide customers with a place to come back to time and time again to find what they’re looking for rather than battle with a multitude of online outlets engaging consumers in constant flux––chaotically shifting from company to company in a quest for the lowest price.
In an era of economic stagnation, people do less overall shopping and as a result, make an effort to get more out of the shopping they do. This is the key piece of the puzzle behind the importance of a strong, consistent investment in their experience after walking through the door.
Until we start seeing holograms or other science fiction-esque sorts of interactive technology hitting the market, the difference between the in-store and online experience will always boil down to the sensory aspect of the shopping experience.
The limitations of the online experience are clear:
- Little to no social interaction –– a chat box or email form is nothing like having a knowledgeable associate in front of you to answer questions, compare products, and help you find what you need. An RIS News survey found respondents rating in-store customer experience higher than both online chat portals and social media pages regardless of ease or accessibility.
- Lack of instant gratification –– with the variety of products available online, there is still no way to replicate the feeling of finding, purchasing, and leaving the store with your items in a matter of minutes. Online orders always involve delay.
A major reason why some retailers lose pace with their customers stems from an inability to adapt to the technologies aimed at improving their shopping experience.
The expectations of the average consumer are now beginning to change, especially among a younger generation of tech-savvy shoppers. As a result, it may be necessary to rethink the purpose of your store relative to the experiences customers are coming to expect as they browse your location and interact with associates.