It’s no secret that online shopping has exploded in popularity, not least during the pandemic. But what percentage of retail is actually happening online? Just under 15 percent - meaning that 85 percent of retail sales in the US today are taking place in physical, brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers still enjoy a healthy dominance on the street - but the growth of ecommerce is forcing them to adapt and evolve, creating new and more streamlined customer experiences.
The evolution and ease of online shopping has redefined the shopping experience for many consumers. Physical stores, by contrast, have remained largely static for decades. Many brick-and-mortar stores which saw sales sag during COVID-19 have been less successful in staying dialed in on what consumers want as they return to the high streets and shopping malls. Traditional retail formats for items like clothing, electronics and footwear have become tired and inefficient, and are in urgent need of reinvention to help attract store shoppers, keep them coming back, and stay relevant in a digital age.
Boring Retail is Dead
If retail stores are still the preferred channel for consumer buying, now is an ideal time for retailers to take innovative steps to keep brick-and-mortar shopping current and profitable. Retail consultant Steve Dennis framed the issue well in the first line of his recent book on retail in the age of digital disruption: “Physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.”
Here are four powerful ways retailers are breathing new life into their store formats, using tech and innovative tools to transform the customer experience.
Improving Consumer Engagement
adidas uses a plethora of customer-facing technology in its stores to create a human connection with shoppers . Customers get the chance to try before they buy on running simulators, basketball courts and other tech-based activities. It goes way beyond fancy holograms and LCD displays, which offer a wow factor but not much else for shoppers.
adidas connects the technology with its product offerings to engage with consumers, teach how products are used, and provide a compelling reason to enter and leave the store. Customers are motivated by brands that go the extra mile for them, not just the latest shiny retail gizmo.
Immersive Store Experiences
Retailers that can create memorable experiences for shoppers have a leg up on competitors. Nordstrom has rolled out its Nordstrom Local concept, which are 2,000-square foot satellite stores. The stores meet growing omnichannel trends and include only merchandise shoppers have ordered online for pick-up at retail locations (also known as BOPIS – buy online, pick-up in store). The locations are close to customers and provide a more manageable shopper experience. A Nordstrom Local in New York’s West Village has a wall of orders for pick-up and access to extras such as personal stylists and shoe repair staff.
Toys R Us is making a comeback with smaller concept stores which feature interactive displays, play areas for kids and special events spaces to entice shoppers. Best Buy devotes spaces within its stores to help shoppers engage with the products it sells. Consumers learn how to interact with products on a day-to-day basis instead of having to work out the kinks or resolve issues with their new purchases at home.
Nike’s tech-driven shopping features align with its plans to “disrupt” retail. Its Nike Live concept aims to shake up the shopping experience in the digital age, building experiences and services that consumers want and appreciate. It’s an ideal example of bridging brick-and-mortar with the latest digital technologies.
Its concept store in Los Angeles offers Curb Service where customers can pick up items curbside to improve convenience and speed delivery. Lockers store items shoppers have ordered online to try on in-store before purchasing. App users can access free items in a vending machine through their phones. Shoppers can sit down and chat with experts at the store’s Sneaker Bar, while the Dynamic Fit Zone offers the chance to trial products and gain styling tips.
An area in the rear of the store called Local Favorites features apparel most popular with local residents, tailored to shoppers based on customer-sourced data.
Tracking Customer Journey
Retailers are investing in analytics platforms to track customer journeys across various touchpoints to truly enhance the shopper experience from end to end.
An Adobe platform enables retailers to compile data across the customer journey to better understand shopping platforms, analyze consumer behaviors and extract insights to shape their BOPIS strategies. Retailers can visualize customer pathways before, during and after they enter a store to create deeper engagement with shoppers at each critical step of the buyer process.
Tools like these are helping retailers get a better handle on what a post-pandemic shopping landscape looks like and how they can inject fresh energy into today’s omnichannel shopper experience.