The past, in the minds of retail CEO’s, were the glory days. The mall was a destination, a place where mothers and daughters created memories while shopping for the perfect prom dress. Meanwhile, a gaggle of teenagers would commence their weekends at the food court hoping one of them would run into their crush whilst sipping an Orange Julius. Ultimately, the physical shopping experience was a social one. It seems, that with storefronts closing at record rates, that consumers are rejecting said experience and replacing it with a digital one. On the other hand, studies are showing that is quite the contrary.
With our new digitized society, it seems that we’ve taken everything online, including shopping. Coincidentally, it has caused the rapid closing of many namesake retailers. But, Women’s Wear Daily reports retail is expected to grow 4 to 4.5 percent this year alone; so what gives? Surprisingly, it turns out, Millenials and Gen Z’ers, actually prefer shopping in store. Looking deeper into the matter, we know that those generations, while tech-savvy, are experience-driven. Stepping foot into a store and feeling clothing in one’s hand, trying on a new dress or pair of shoes is an experience in itself. On the other hand, the reason many brands are shutting their doors is the experience they provide is a poor one. In a study of shoppers researcher found,
- 79 % have walked out of a store without purchase because the checkout line was too long.
- 10 minutes the average time that a customer will stand waiting in line,
- 86 % want to return and exchange items purchased online in store.
- 60 % want to be able to see, touch, and feel the items before purchase
- One-third say shopping is a pleasurable social activity.
The success of the physical store depends on marrying the best aspects of online shopping and in-person shopping into one harmonious unit. From a superficial standpoint, that means turning the experience into a destination. Most importantly, each store must be a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing space that is on-brand. Gimmicks such as photo booths or “Instagram-worthy” places in the store will attract the younger crowd and give them incentive to gain they couldn’t get online. From a practical standpoint, Michele Dupré, group vice president for retail, hospitality and distribution for Verizon Enterprise Solutions offers more solutions. He states, “Think: complimentary personal shopping and wardrobe consultation for apparel companies; in-home design consultation if selling furniture or housewares; or, travel recommendations if selling travel services,” to attract customers. In addition, there are some major concerns that must first be solved to provide a seamless experience for the customer. The top ones include mobile payments and even the ability to be automatically charged as they exit the store. Another customer desire is virtual reality in dressing rooms.
The future of the brick and mortar can be as bright as the fluorescent lights shining down in its stores. It seems, the key to not suffering the same fate as many others, is being adaptable to consumer patterns and needs. From here on, companies must find a way make the trek in-store worthwhile by providing an experience they could not get online. If not, their storefront could end up as passé as AOL dial-up internet of the nineties.