The Future of Retail
Movies such as “Confessions of a Shopaholic” are based on the idea that shopping is a magical thing. Yet the reality is that it is filled with a number of inconveniences. However, retail shopping is getting a digital face-lift. The result of this is that the ways in which consumers interact with products in the real world, is being augmented with the digital world. The following article will dive into the retail landscape and explain how technology is changing the way consumers shop.
Is Traditional Shopping Dead?
The traditional method of shopping consists of consumers visiting physical stores and either buying some items or walking away empty-handed. Now, shopping is not so straightforward. With the introduction of online shopping on digital platforms and delivery services like Amazon, customers can now browse items from the comfort of their own home. Online shopping has taken the world by storm. Revenues are expected to reach $370 billion in 2017, up from $213 billion in 2012. Which leads to the question, is it the end for traditional shopping?
No, is the answer. A recent study highlighted that 85% of consumers would rather shop in an actual store. They prefer to feel and touch the products. Online retailers such as Amazon also realize the need for physical stores and the consumer’s need to try and feel products before purchasing them. Therefore, these tech savvy companies have been taking a page out of traditional retailers’ books. They have begun opening physical stores, or placing pop ups around big cities.
Amazon, for example, recently announced the opening of its own grocery store. As NBC writes, “by pulling out a mobile phone with the Amazon app, shoppers can use visual search technology to identify books and objects around them. The search reveals reviews, shipping options and price.” This digitally friendly store allows consumers to browse and learn more about their products. This means customers can avoid long checkout lines by simply scanning their phones. Their purchases are then charged to their account.
So, if digital shopping is on the rise, but people still enjoy experiencing the physical product before buying, what does that mean for the future of retail shopping? It seems that the future of the retail world lies somewhere in between. Both online and physical stores are realizing that they need to adapt to survive. And in this case, adapting means changing to fit the global and online economy. Stores are changing the way we shop for good.
Where Are Physical Stores Going Wrong?
So if physical stores aren’t dead, where are they going wrong? They have had a tough time competing with online websites in recent years. As the Huffington Post explains, “The fashion script has been flipped. Customers are no longer compliant consumers but rather savvy shoppers. They compare prices and purchase merchandise through multiple platforms including physical stores, department stores online shops, boutiques, designer sites and third party sellers.” Why go to one store when you can browse and compare prices from multiple outlets?
Convenience is also killing the in store experience. Shopping is much more comfortable on a couch than in a brightly lit room with techno music blaring from the speakers. 46% of consumers state that ease of checkout is important to them in the shopping process, and as many people know, long lines at malls or boutiques don’t exactly make for a speedy and calming experience. While these stores have their benefits, traditional companies are realizing that they need to boost their online presence, make check out easier, and create an all encompassing, unique shopping experience to draw consumers in. 40% percent of millennials, have turned to cell phones as a channel through which to buy clothing, retail stores need to upgrade their apps, as well as modernize their online shopping options, to compete with other service providers.
However, a physical store still offers an advantage that online shopping does not. As previously stated, 85% of consumers want to touch products before they buy them. Even more impressive, 90% of consumers said they are somewhat or extremely likely to purchase something when given advice by a well informed sales associate. In depth, in person knowledge is something that online shops can’t deliver on as well as physical stores.
Reimagining the Customer Experience
Companies should start to reimagine the customer experience by fusing the traditional shopping experience with digital technology. People like to shop from the comfort of their home. Driving to stores and walking around doesn’t always offer the same level of comfort as a sofa. Stores need to adapt their business model so that they offer consumers valuable experiences they can’t get at home.
Many stores are already doing this, as Harvard Business Review writes, “Jordan’s Furniture…achieves some of the highest furniture sales productivity in the country. Jordans use themed “streets” within its stores, a Mardi Gras show, an IMAX 3-D theater, a laser light show, food courts, a city constructed of jellybeans, a motion-simulation ride, a water show, a trapeze school, and special charity events”. Therefore, more shops and companies have turned to digital technology to enhance consumer experience and increase engagement. Faster checkout lines, smart phone apps and virtual shopping kiosks are all ways physical stores can make themselves more attractive to their target demographic.
Could this be the future of retail? Physical stores that combine the technological and the traditional? It seems as though soon, there will be virtually no divide between online and physical shopping. People can order online, see the product physical stores and have their purchases shipped to their homes. Technology will soon overtake every aspect of shopping, both online and physical.