There is this popular misconception that e-commerce is taking over the retail world but its impact on physical retail is not as negative as many believe. It is quite easy to blame the "retail apocalypse" myth on the growth of e-commerce and go with the flow of the media. But some perspectives would prove otherwise. Retailers are moving ahead with their offline businesses because of the learnings they have taken from their online businesses. According to retail statistics, 75% of buyers prefer to buy from brands that personalize their purchase experience. E-commerce is driving brick-and-mortars to innovate and reach the same level of relevancy.
Shopping is often experiential. Most people like to browse and enjoy the experience. They want to get out of the house, go to the store, window shop, touch the item, go to another item, be indecisive, and then finally buy. They go home with an experience. A small meaningful journey. Perhaps it is their hunter-gatherer nature.
E-commerce is a huge success but it is unclear yet whether it will be able to replicate the physical shopping experience. There is a reason why online retailers are opening physical stores; take Amazon as an example. Certain industries are not as suitable for e-commerce. You wouldn't buy a car without test driving it, right? Key findings consumer behavior 2021 report said that 33% of respondents prefer shopping in physical stores. While 26% enjoy the overall experience that a physical store provides. 13% responded that they like the immediacy that physical shopping provides compared to waiting for delivery.
Some consumers buy their groceries online but the majority purchase in-store. The U.S. alone has 40,460 grocery stores and they are expected to increase over the next three to five years, according to PYMNTS.
Successful brick-and-mortars are starting to innovate and get creative with their stores to transform the typical customer experience into a magical one and get in front of their customers. Customers have become accustomed to a smooth shopping experience online. It is expected. But when the physical world does it, it is mind-blowing. You can physically feel the experience and go home with increased dopamine.
Here are some of the technologies that retailers are using to change the way customers typically shop:
A small wireless transmitter that uses low-energy Bluetooth technology and sends signals to other smart devices nearby. If a customer has opted in, retailers gather data and deliver proximity campaigns to them based on their location. Like sending that there is a sale in a store nearby, and based on the customer buying behavior data that they have, it is probably a store of their interest too.
A screen where you display ads based on your store environment and inform consumers about new releases. Retailers can promote a product to increase its sales, strengthen their communication with the customer, and innovate their shopping experiences.
With the adoption of the smartphone, retailers now have the ability to personalise the in-store experience based on the preferences of the shopper. Retailers can identify customers the moment they enter the store, understand what kind of products they buy, understand their buying behavior and recommend more relevant products to them.
Robot shopping assistants Identify items, navigate the store, and can guide the customer to the product they are looking for. Customers can interact with it if they need to understand the product. The robots can also identify out-of-stock items, find pricing errors, and missing items.
As technology continues to evolve, brick-and-mortar retailers will need to adapt to avoid extinction. They will need to embrace innovation to allow consumers to perceive physical shopping as pleasant, enjoyable, and extraordinary - a seamless experience between click and brick.
Along with the importance of technology, equally important is reinforcing faith in the product and brand which doubtfully can be communicated and translated online. It is extremely useful to be able to have a direct one-on-one link between customers; making them feel welcomed and appreciated.
With all points considered, this is just the beginning. I think we can all predict that we are going to see more creative and cool ideas coming from the retail industry in the upcoming decade. Any retailer that will utilize technology and put customer experience at the center will undoubtedly succeed.