Here’s something that might surprise you: people still love buying products in stores. Nearly 40% of consumers buy something at physical stores weekly, as opposed to the 27% who make online purchases weekly.
It might not seem accurate considering how online shopping has changed the retail landscape, especially after Q4 earnings reports were released. But consumers still love to see, try, and feel the product their shopping for before committing to buying it.
In fact, just having a physical store can make a difference. One study showed that 95% of retail sales happen through companies with some sort of physical store.
Companies are starting to realize the importance of physical stores. Spartoo, a successful French fashion retailer, recently opened a physical store after only existing online for years. Even Amazon has opened physical bookstores.
How Things Have Changed
The retail industry has changed drastically with the development of the internet and smartphones. Sometimes those changes aren’t so great for the retail world. Here are four of the biggest changes online shopping has brought and some of the problems they pose for physical stores.
1. Larger Stock Available Online
One of the biggest problems physical stores have always faced is the limited stock available to customers. They can only sell what is in the store and if they’re running low, they have to wait for the next delivery.
Online shopping revolutionized the idea of having things in stock. Customers didn’t have to wonder if the store they went to would have the pants they wanted in the right size. Instead, they could simply form the online catalogue and get exactly what they’re looking for.
So customers have started asking why they should bother going a physical store when there’s a chance the item they’re looking for won’t be there. It’s much easier to simply buy it online, where it’s guaranteed to be in stock.
We live in a world where people do seven things at once and like to get done with any given task as quickly as possible.
So it makes sense that shopping has evolved to fit that mindset. Instead of spending time driving to and from a store, tracking down items, and standing in checkout lines, you can buy something in the amount of time it takes you to search for it online or on your phone.
Customers can simply click a button and be done.
Add to that the fact that most places have the option of delivering products right to your door, and most people are happy to spend only the amount of time it takes to click “Buy” before forgetting about the product.
3. Shop Anywhere
Customers can buy pretty much anything with the click of a button and that button is becoming easier and easier to find.
They can call a number to place an order. Or log on to a company’s website on their computers. Or even download an app onto their phones.
There’s less of a need for consumers to go to a physical store to buy things.
Showrooming is a recent phenomenon where consumers go into a store, browse the merchandise, and then leave. They then research the best deals being offered and buy the product online.
This can cause problems for a company when a different vendor is selling a similar product, or the same one, for cheaper than you are.
6 Things Customers Want From Your Store
Despite the fact that so many customers are turning to online shopping solutions, they still want to go to a physical store. But in order to keep them coming back, you have to make sure they don’t leave angry or unsatisfied.
Here are 6 ideas for improving your customers’ experiences in your store.
1. A Fitting Room
Clothes differ from other retail products in one major way: people want to know that they fit before they buy.
Customers prefer physical stores when it comes to fashion because stores have fitting rooms. Sure, they can send something back through the mail if it doesn’t fit, but that’s a bigger effort. Better to put in the extra time at the beginning and try the outfit on before you buy it.
The good news is most fashion retail stores already have fitting rooms. But you can make them even better. By incorporating technology into your fitting rooms, you can show customers a wider range of products, or allow them to order the item in a different color or size that you don’t have in the store.
Now, when I say engagement, I don’t mean the get down on one knee, propose-with-a-diamond-ring kind of engagement.
But I do mean forming a meaningful relationship.
The relationship I’m talking about is the one between consumer and brand. That relationship can make or break a company. Customers are looking for companies that will make an effort to connect with them.
Of course, it’s easy to connect with customers online. But shoppers also expect a connection when they visit a brick and mortar store. Their experience drives them to return to or avoid the store in the future.
3. Knowledgeable Staff
In today’s world, answers are never more than a few keystrokes away. We live on our phones, on our connection to the world around us.
Before buying products, consumers are doing research. They see what other people have to say about that product. They compare prices. The research possible problems.
But when they’re in the store, there are employees. And customers will ask employees some of the same questions.
So it’s important that your employees either know the answers to those questions or have a way to find the answers quickly.
Going to a physical store often involves a bigger effort on the customer’s part and nothing feels more like a reward for that effort than a special deal.
It’s not uncommon for stores to offer special, in-store only discounts to their consumers in an effort to pull them in.
Now, they’re doing this in a few different ways.
Some are sending out advertisements for exclusive, in-store discounts. These can be flyers, newspaper ads, mail, email, texts, or coupons. Others are offering deals only to people already in the store, using at the counter sales and beacon technology.
I said earlier that one of the biggest selling points of online shopping is the vast stock customers have access to.
But here’s a secret: you can use that in your store too.
There’s no rule that says you can only show your stock online. Just because you don’t have specific pair of shoes in stock right now doesn’t mean customers can’t know about them.
The best way to give customers options is to pair technology with your physical store. Have employees with tablets to offer customers the chance to order exactly what they want.
Webroom is a response to showrooms, an opposite. It’s where customers do research ahead of time on products. They read reviews, talk to their peers, and look at prices. Then they go to the store, try on or try out the product, and make their purchase.
In fact, 37% of customers research the product online, but prefer to buy in-store.
So make your entire stock available for customers to look at online. Make sure each item is described and you answer common questions people have.
Online shopping has made a big impact on retail companies, but not in the ways you might have thought. Consumers are still loyal to brick and mortar stores.
Still, there are ways you can adapt to the changing market. Can you think of any others?