In-store Shopping Experiences Are Evolving
Covid restrictions have lifted, and numerous vaccination options have prompted consumers to resume in-store shopping. Shoppers are bringing their accelerated expectations of convenient, personalized, and frictionless shopping.
As the holiday season approaches, excellent customer service is no longer enough in brick-and-mortar. Digitally integrated experiences are table stakes for brick-and-mortar retailers to win the holiday foot traffic wars. Consumers want a seamless experience from online to in-person since technology enables commerce to be wherever the consumer is. Curating unique customer experiences that online shopping can't replicate with digital-only is getting shoppers off the couch and in store aisles.
Connected Shoppers Want Connected Retail. Commerce enablement technology advanced 5 years during the 2020 pandemic, and most brands increased their online experiences. So why not just focus on digital? Because in-store shopping is up 13.7% compared to pre-pandemic and shoppers spend per in-store visit compared to online. Gen Z and Gen X, upwards of 132 million consumers, do most of their shopping in-store. Even though making a purchase today is simply one click away, human behavior remains multi-dimensional: touch, feel, and smell are powerful marketing tools, and human behavior continues to drive shoppers to the physical retail space. Consumers still value physically interacting with products in-store. Still, now they expect the shopping experience to be equivalent to the online experience and heightened with elements they can’t get digitally.
Offering table stakes online experiences- individual personalization, relational product recommendations, frictionless pay, product reviews, and AR/VR-enabled try-before-you-buy are commonplace in brick-and-mortar.
Retail giants like Amazon, Wayfair, and Birchbox are a few native online retailers that recognize the importance of meeting and connecting with their shoppers in physical space, investing millions in brick-and-mortar locations.
Start Here. Determining purpose and intent is the key to designing the optimal retail experience for the target audience. Most retailers don't know where to start when it comes to thinking digital in their physical spaces offline. Start with the 'why.' Do you want to create an experience? Or do you want to drive sales? The two are not synonymous, though both objectives can apply the same best practices to reach engagement or conversion outcomes. Here are three essential best practices to keep in mind when creating physical-digital strategies:
Customer-Centric, Data Led 36% of brands are not in-tune with what their shoppers genuinely want from a shopping experience. Typically, in-store retail strategy leverages data and research to drive conversion, not a consumer experience. Leveraging data to understand behavioral insights is the foundation of successful retail experience strategies. Experiences designed with the consumer at the center and validated with data answer the questions required to drive brand loyalty and growth through experiences. Leveraging 0, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd- party data reveals what your target audience looks for in ideal experiences, their criteria to engage or purchase, and even how location affects strategy store to store.
Make a P.A.L Physical brand engagement is an opportunity to connect consumers emotionally. How people think and feel about a brand has an influencing factor on their brand-oriented actions. Creating digital and physical environments that help the customer emotionally connect with the brand can shift 'wants' to 'needs' during the shopping experience. P.A.L. -purchase, advocacy, and loyalty occur at the intersection of emotion and consumption. Create lasting brand bonds beyond the purchase, and shoppers will return and spread the word.
Eyes on the Prize There are countless approaches, solutions, and technologies to consider when designing in-store experiences, and it's easy to get distracted by the latest innovation or trend. If possible, leverage what you already have (data, tech, etc.), make KIPs that align with your purpose and intent, implement a continuous measurement plan, and optimize as needed. Focus on creating experiences that will inspire your ideal customer.
As commerce technology evolves, so will consumer expectations. It's vital to consider lifecycle and scalability to optimize spending. The physical retail space is brand expression beyond the screen and always presents an opportunity to turn engagement into conversion and retention.
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