We’re a little more than a month into 2017, yet we’ve seen several prominent retailers close their brick-and-mortar locations to focus on e-commerce. With these changes, it could be easy to assume traditional retail is on the way out. Yet, when we surveyed shoppers for our 2016 In-Store Holiday Shopping Study, we learned some shoppers still really love the in-store experience that only a brick-and-mortar location can provide.
Online shopping has the leading edge over brick-and-mortar in their product selections and prices. However, there is more to the shopping experience than just products. Research on shopping preferences by A.T. Kearney found 90% of all U.S. retail sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores.1 If shoppers were only concerned with product selection and prices, then online shopping would’ve closed brick-and-mortars five years ago.
There’s More to Shopping Than Bargain Prices
Put simply, shoppers value the experience of going out with friends and seeing product first-hand. Let’s take buying a gift for your significant other as an example. I recently planned a hike in the mountains with my wife. Most shoppers would rather shop for these things in person. But why? Why go to the store instead of shopping online?
While inside the store, I can feel the jackets, see the colors in person, I can inspect the quality of the equipment, and as I’m walking out I can pick up snacks for the road. This would be impossible to do online without breaking the bank on product choices and return shipping – not to mention the stress of waiting for things to arrive.
The freedom of seeing and feeling products first hand is an advantage that is unique to retailers. However, this doesn’t discount the significance of lower prices and a larger selection of online shopping. How can a brick-and-mortar store work their in-store advantage to secure more customers?
Shoppers Want a Better Shopping Experience
To some stores, quality customer service is treated as “icing on the cake” when really, it’s the driving force behind shopping. In our 2016 In-Store Holiday Shopping Study, we learned customers are most responsive to two factors of customer service–quality of experience and speed of service:
- 65% said they shop in store because they can see, touch, and feel the product they’re buying
- 61% said they shop in store to get products faster
The most successful stores find inclusive ways of integrating online shopping into the unique advantages of brick-and-mortar stores. A study from the Verde Group at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found two-thirds of shoppers regularly uses two or more channels when they buy.2
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
The modern shopper has a plethora of channels working for their attention. From brand-specific apps to massive online stores like Amazon to the brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart. The shopper may only need one of something, yet all channels are working to be the one supplying it.
With these ideas in mind, the modern shopper navigates all channels to find the product they want – which is a growing behavior found in our survey. Of the shoppers we surveyed:
- Over 65% expect the ability to buy online, pick-up, and return products in store
- 66% claimed a retailer’s promotions influenced whether they make a purchase
- 70% ranked a staff member’s knowledge about current promotions as “very important”
Brick-and-mortar retail stores fill an important role in a shopper’s journey. A retail store is unlikely to compete with online shopping at the product-level, but where they can compete is at the shopping experience-level.
As mentioned earlier, a high-quality shopping experience isn’t “the icing on the cake”. Our Holiday Shopping Study found 70% of shoppers believe a poor customer experience is a heavy factor to “a lot” of negative in-store experience. The survey also found 66% of shoppers are at least somewhat likely to share a bad experience on social media, potentially harming future business.
Shoppers still love shopping for products in-store, because they’d rather touch and see the product in person than on a screen. For brick-and-mortar stores to remain relevant in the digital age, they’ll need to focus on bringing in other channels like mobile and online shopping for a complete brand experience.
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1. Michael B, et al. “On Solid Ground”. A.T. Kearney. https://www.atkearney.com/consumer-products-retail/on-solid-ground ↩
2. “Understanding the Multi-Channel Shopper”. Verde Group. http://www.verdegroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/The-Multi-Channel-Shopper-Market-Study.pdf ↩