For brick-and-mortar stores competing with e-commerce and the digital economy, it’s critical to increase the value of the in-store experience.
Surprisingly, after two years of dealing with the covid-19 pandemic, people are more prone to shop in-store because they are craving in-person experiences and wanting to get away from their computers and out of their homes.
This shift in consumer behavior has left retailers in a unique position – after years of closures, reduced hours, and very little foot traffic, the tides are turning and consumers are appreciating the in-person experience more than before.
Let’s look at key trends in offline shopping and how companies are navigating the changing retail landscape.
The cross-channel shopping experience should be beneficial for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. It seems in the past it has been mostly one-sided, benefiting the e-commerce side.
Customers tend to look for deals and compare prices online, and often try on items in-store only to then find their size online and complete the purchase through the web. Or worse, purchase multiple sizes of the same item online in order to try them on in the comfort of their own home, and then return all the extra sizes they never intended to keep to their nearest store location. The excess of returns in-store negatively impacts brick-and-mortar sales, but does provide an opportunity to engage the customer and introduce them to new products.
Only a few retailers are utilizing their web presence to benefit their physical store locations. One way to do so is to have accurate and up-to-date inventory visible to the consumer, and let them know exactly where in store to find the items they are looking for. For example, many big box retailers specify on their website the exact aisle and location of items in-store, so a customer could begin their shopping experience online and instead choose to easily locate the item at their nearest store and get the item same day.
Looking at it from a different angle, a report by Placer states that “Digitally native brands (DNBs) have a unique perspective on the potential of omnichannel shopping. While most traditional retailers used stores as a starting point and then moved online, the online-only approach that these brands pioneered provided the key, and often only, path to early growth. Yet, many are now turning to physical locations to help expand the potential success – and this shift is incredibly important.”
It’s evident that a true omnichannel strategy is key to the future of retail.
“Brick-and-mortar businesses need to be engaging in collaborations and event marketing and, if they engage in media at all, they need to be focused on local media,” says Amanda Berlin, PR Consultant at The ABerlin Agency, Inc.
She advises that identifying local strategic partners who have the same target customer and can introduce the brand to new audiences or customers is key.
“With these collaborators, or solo, brick-and-mortar business owners can create experiences for their prospective clients to draw them into the store and give them something they can’t get from an online experience – and something they have sorely missed during the pandemic. Building an event with a collaborator can extend the reach of the event and bring in new faces. With all the options in media and the easy access to online media such as podcasts and online magazines, brick-and-mortar businesses need to stay focused on courting local audiences. Only engage in a media relations effort if it is highly targeted and focused on local opportunities,” adds Berlin.
As can be expected, the draw for shoppers to return to physical stores is solely for the experience they can have – whether that be speaking to a salesperson, seeing and touching products in person, or attending engaging events. Experiential marketing can go a long way in building brand equity and increasing sales.
“Frequent experiential activations in your retail location is a key strategy to getting people in the door and keeping them in your location for as long as possible. That time matters. Because consumers are becoming as experience driven as they are product quality driven, it’s pivotal that small and large retailers create experiences beyond the product they’re selling itself. In-store activations build trust and deeper connections with customers,” says Adebukola Ajao, Digital Marketing Consultant at BDY Consult.
Brick-and-mortar stores must constantly be looking for ways to enhance the in-store experience and add value to the shopper. Whether that is accomplished by adding additional services, eliminating any pain points for customers, or experiential events – it’s a must in order to keep shoppers engaged and coming back.
The challenges brought on by the global pandemic forced businesses to reevaluate their strategy and moved the needle forward in retail innovations. Brick-and-mortar stores must keep their finger on the pulse of the retail industry in order to seize the unique opportunities presenting themselves.