It’s no secret that online shopping has exploded in the past few years. Shoppers have almost everything in the world available for purchase right at their fingertips. While some retailers scramble to increase their online offerings, other large retail companies who once operated solely on the web are taking their products to the streets. Amazon recently announced its plan to open nearly 400 new stores after trying out their first physical location in Seattle last year. It’s an interesting paradigm, highlighting the fact that brick-and-mortar shopping is still relevant and for many people, the preferred method of shopping. So what do customers value in the retail experience that can’t be fulfilled online?
Inside a store, retailers have the opportunity to share the full brand experience with their customers using every one of the human senses. An optimal layout will not only create a seamless shopping experience but a full immersion into a brand’s culture. From the moment a shopper walks into a store, they’re greeted with the sight (lighting, colors, layout), smell (scent of the store), and sound (music, chatter) associated with the brand. Shoppers can then examine and experience a product first-hand such as listening to the sound quality of a new speaker, trying on new shoes or sitting on prospective sofa. When these factors are collectively on point, retailers have the opportunity to generate not just a single sale but more importantly, loyal return customers.
One irreplaceable aspect of shopping is face-to-face interaction between customers and sales associates. Shoppers value the expertise and tailored recommendations that a knowledgeable associate can provide especially when purchasing big ticket items such as a computer, jewelry or home appliances. In fact, a recent poll showed 90% of shoppers felt more likely to make a purchase after receiving help from an associate. While e-commerce sites have the ability to make general product recommendations based on customer browsing history and search behavior, physical interaction presents the opportunity for more relevant suggestions based on conversation and real-time feedback.
Many people consider spending time at the mall a fun activity with the possible reward of taking home a same-day purchase. For most people, the satisfaction received from an immediate purchase will always trump the delay that comes with delivery, even if it’s same day.
Playing up these points is advantageous for brick and mortar retailers. Lucky for them, innovation and emerging technology platforms like Prism are empowering retailers to gain insights and optimize their customer experience using data. The ability to track customers’ path to purchase and analytics tools once reserved for online retailers are now available for real-world businesses. As breakthrough technology becomes mainstream practice, brick and mortar retailers now have the opportunity to level the playing field and keep their business booming.