While online business has undergone exponential growth for several years, outstripping physical points-of-sale, shops are not to be outdone. This was confirmed by the 2021 State of Retail study, which found that twice as many stores were opening as closing.
What about the physical act of shopping makes it a unique experience for consumers? Why are we developing omnichannel sales strategies rather than looking to replace physical points-of-sale? You can find some answers in this article.
While many consumers choose to buy online, the selling points of brick-and-mortar stores help them retain market share. Online orders usually involve delivery costs and a wait of some sort, but in-store shopping dispenses with these barriers to conversion.
The immediate availability of a product removes frustrations and also creates enthusiasm in consumers. Wearing a freshly-bought t-shirt, running home to try out the game you’ve just bought...in-store shopping generates a unique excitement, often at a reasonable price.
The growth of “Research online, purchase offline” (ROPO), where shoppers familiarise themselves with prices online before buying in-store, illustrates this well: physical stores offer a shopping experience that consumers enjoy.
An immersive experience
Although the pull of in-store shopping remains the same, the practical side of things has transformed. Today physical points-of-sale are becoming synonymous with a shopping experience in their own right. The unique atmosphere of a store replaces the convenience of buying online.
With the shop window and its shelves showcasing a brand, huge ongoing efforts are made to immerse the consumer in an aural, visual, and sometimes even tactile and olfactory experience. Dimmed lights, a soundscape that fits with the brand – store managers continue to push the boundaries to win customers’ loyalty.
It’s more than just a shopping experience – it’s a journey from the moment we walk through the doors. Brands understand this well. So they sometimes go even further and offer social experiences alongside shopping like music classes, sports sessions, painting workshops, and crafting in-store. All this involves customers and makes them part of the brand.
Turning a consumer into an influencer or brand ambassador is difficult to achieve online. Despite 360° store visits using VR, nothing can truly replace a rich social experience. This doubtless explains why 82% of shoppers leave having spent more than they expected!
Knowing what you are buying
Although impulse buying is common, actually in-store shopping is an ideal way for consumers to familiarise themselves with what they are buying.
Even with all today’s technology, ordering an item of clothing via an e-commerce store carries some risk – particularly disappointment when the item arrives (wrong size, colours different to how you imagined, etc.) These problems don’t happen in a physical store. What you see is what you get!
The number one reason that 51% of consumers explain their reason for going to a store is being able to try and hold the products before buying them.
The human touch
When choosing what to buy, consumers (particularly young people) like to benefit from salespeople’s expertise. Very different from distant chatbots, customers can use this knowledge in different ways.
For consumers, the best recommendations involve:
- relationship between quality and price (65%) ;
- product quality (64%) ;
- product reliability (56%) ;
- balancing product with budget (47%).
And the role of the merchant goes further: it is not just about providing information but about forming a relationship of trust between the buyer and the seller. So that the relationship no longer links a faceless consumer to a brand but brings two human beings together for a sustainable and loyalty-based relationship.
Other than these kinds of interactions, a shopping experience in a physical store often represents time spent with friends and family. A moment of relaxation and sharing an experience you can’t find online.
Like the connection that 62% of French people feel with their supermarkets and megastores (Opinion Way study, October 2021), physical points-of-sale still have a place in the hearts of consumers.
This is why brands must quickly adopt an ecosystem that integrates the different distribution channels: website, app, newsletter, stores, etc. All need to work together in an omnichannel strategy aligned to consumer expectations.