The number of eCommerce businesses has doubled in the past five years. The rise of the industry has admittedly caused less foot traffic and some brick and mortar businesses to suffer closure. But contrary to popular belief, retailers are not going out easily. Studies have shown that the majority of shoppers still prefer to go to physical establishments.
To ensure that they do remain relevant, retail has to adapt in order to compete with eCommerce. This means targeting the right demographic and merging what consumers want based on their shopping preferences and experience, both online and offline. This fusion has already started to manifest in the services offered by some companies.
Shoppers Still Want to Get Physical
One advantage that stores have is the tactile experience they provide. Even though eCommerce stores can boast of features like high-resolution images or 360-degree visualizations, people still prefer to touch, smell, and feel products when they go shopping. As a matter of fact, about 78% of shoppers prefer a physical engagement with a product over a virtual experience. Being able to physically touch a product can affect a person's purchasing decision.
In a study that had participants think abstractly and concretely about buying a coffee cup, those that were able to touch the cup were found to be more willing to make a purchase as opposed to those who just looked at the product. Retailers can take advantage of that by utilizing consumer research data obtained from online retailers to recognize customers who value a more tactile approach to shopping and focus their marketing strategies on them.
Highlight Instant Gratification
Another feature that physical stores can continue to play up to their advantage is the instant gratification they can give their customers. People shopping at department stores can immediately buy and take home whatever it is that catches their eyes, something that online sites are still working to provide.
Retailers are also starting to integrate artificial intelligence to allow them to better compete with their virtual counterparts. AI can be used to help customers identify products they need to purchase without having to spend hours browsing online. For instance, a user can post a picture of an item they're looking for and brands with AI technology can display similar products that they have in their inventory.
AI technology can also help combine the efficiency often associated with online browsing with the immediate access physical stores provide. For example, groceries can utilize mobile apps that would allow clients to check what they need online, scan a barcode, order the products and check them out without having to go through the checkout line. This type of efficiency allows busy shoppers to finish their task with no interruptions and will undoubtedly keep them going back to that store.
Shopping Becomes Personal Again
Businesses like Amazon might appear to be the future of shopping, what with the store's vast product offerings, availability, speedy delivery and even the proposed usage of drones. However, that doesn't mean it's what all shoppers want. As a matter of fact, a majority of shoppers still prefer to have in-store experiences. Millennials, in particular, are looking for unique shopping encounters.
Some traditional fashion and beauty companies are now providing their customers with personalized shopping experiences inspired by online retailers. Beauty giant Sephora is one such store. The cosmetics company tracks their customer's purchase preferences using their Beauty Insider card. Once a customer goes to a Sephora store, the Visual Artist, an augmented reality 3D facial recognition program, uses the customer's buying history to give suggestions on beauty products they might be interested in. Meanwhile, fashion stalwart Ralph Lauren is experimenting with smart mirrors that can adjust the lighting in fitting rooms, recommend pieces that complement the customer or suggest an alternative color or size.
Though eCommerce might tempt shoppers with convenience, drone deliveries or robot customer service officers, people will keep going back to brick-and-mortar stores. However, retailers should continue to find ways to adapt and give their customers a memorable shopping experience if they want them to keep returning.