The traditional brick and mortar store is changing – here’s how.
While eCommerce continues to go from strength to strength, with people turning to online shopping for its freedom, flexibility, and convenience, brick and mortar retailing is enjoying something of a renaissance.
At present, around 49% of US consumers confirm that they choose to visit stores in person rather than shopping online because they want to “take items home immediately.” This level of instant gratification coupled with a desire to physically interact with a product before making a purchase served to keep brick and mortar retailing alive and due to emerging technological innovations, its future looks very bright indeed, with big eCommerce retailers including Amazon entering the physical arena – but more on that later.
However, we believe there’s another factor at play here.
The rapid evolution of technology, together with the fact that eCommerce brands can offer a more tailored level of customer experience than ever before, is beginning to blur the lines between the digital and physical realms. These two worlds are no longer mutually exclusive, making brick and mortar shopping an extension of online shopping, and vice-versa.
We live in a time where the lines between the real world and the online world are becoming increasingly blurred, offering new opportunities for retailers looking to make their mark and appeal to a wider audience.
That said, retail as we know it is changing, and to show you how, here’s a walk through the brick and mortar store of the modern age.
“I was reading all these reports that were down on retail brick and mortar, saying it’s all about online… I think brick and mortar is an amazing opportunity to use our stores and our store staff as a vehicle to truly engage with the community in a way no other retailers are doing.” – Jim Brett, former President, West Elm
As you enter a modern-age brick and mortar store, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the interactive displays and touchpoints installed around the shop floor or showroom.
Some stores have interactive advertising displays, some boast artificially intelligent shopping assistants, and others house installations that allow you to test the latest products before you purchase them. In the digital age, when it comes to giving your customers an immersive shopping experience, the sky really is the limit.
Consider Macy’s, for instance. To take their in-store shopping experience to the next level, the US retail giant has selected 69 stores across the nation which will now offer cutting-edge immersive features and displays.
By using a seamless blend of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), Macy’s has married online and offline shopping, making it one big connected experience. Its latest initiative, “Visualize Your Space”, empowers consumers to place different items of furniture in their home environment while in-store. Here, not only do customers get to see, touch, and feel the products; they can also harness the power of technology to decide if it’s worth their investment. And it works: the total basket size in these tech-enhanced stores is reported to be 60% larger compared to other Macy’s furniture stores.
After a quick glance at a modern retail space, mobile device in hand, you will quickly notice (if it’s a brick and mortar retailer worth its salt, anyway) that you can gain access to a wealth of valuable in-store information and features digitally while browsing the shelves.
At least 43% of consumers have used their mobile device while shopping in a bricks and mortar store. Understanding the value of mobile as both an eCommerce and physical commerce tool, forward-thinking outdoor brand REI now offers its customers a fully integrated in-store mobile experience. By using the store’s dedicated shopping app, you can enjoy up-to-date product information, accurate insights into current stock levels, and exclusive content as well as build a shopping list and interact with various touch points throughout the store.
Speaking about the initiative, REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, explained:
“The attention to detail in delivering a branded experience, we need to find a way to move that into our digital assets, into our digital experience. I believe the impact of the idea of a flagship presence online for us is the fusion of creativity and technology.”
REI’s mobile initiative has been nothing short of a success, and many other retailers – big and small – are following suit. This seismic shift toward in-store mobile technology is a testament to the fact that technology isn’t necessarily killing the bricks-and-mortar; it’s enhancing it, offering people a more meaningful shopping adventure than ever before.
For more inspiration on connected eCommerce strategies, explore these four stunning examples of omnichannel marketing.
Studies suggest that 86% of people are willing to pay more for a great customer experience (CX).
In today’s world, both online and offline, offering your consumers a flawless, effortless customer experience is pivotal to success – and with an injection of digital technology, this dedication to CX is apparent in abundance.
Today’s most successful eCommerce brands use chatbots to enhance the level of customer service they offer, and this notion has been adopted in the modern brick and mortar store.
Minnesota-based salon Beauty Ecology utilizes the power of chatbot technology to help its clients select the perfect style, cut, and beauty products for their face shape, tones, and fashion goals before allowing them to book an appointment directly through the app. Once in-store, the salon also uses this technology to further personalize the customer’s experience, tailoring it to their specific wants and needs.
Another innovative use of in-store technology to enhance the customer experience comes from the fashion retailer Kohls. It’s completely interactive fitting room allows customers to try out combinations of clothes or accessories virtually and request physical items to be brought to them if they feel they’re worth trying on – another indication of the emerging value of the brick and mortar in the digital age.
Brick and mortar commerce: trends and predictions
Now that we’ve walked through the essential elements of the modern brick and mortar store, let’s explore the key industry trends and predictions for this year and beyond, including the thoughts of today’s leading industry experts:
A reduction in shipping costs:
“Omnichannel retailers will aggressively promote ‘buy online pickup in-store’ (BOPIS) as not only a way to reduce shipping costs and drive people in-stores, but also to compete with Amazon and satisfy the immediacy for the customer.” – Greg Zakowicz, Bronto software
More focus on experiential shopping:
“Retailers will invest more resources in experiential shopping, with the understanding that the role of stores is shifting away from pure product distribution, to a much more experience-centric model.” – Marc Gingras, Foko Retail
The rise of in-store marketing:
“Rewards-based marketing will change the model for in-store marketing through “shelf-talkers” encouraging consumers to post about a product and receive rewards or discounts that can be used immediately in-store.” – Herman DeBoard, Grabbr
In addition to these industry-leading insights, it’s clear that this year, more shoppers will embrace the ever-expanding choice of technological products, services, and touchpoints available at their fingertips.
As eCommerce continues to grow, brick and mortar retailers will invest in experiences that will offer their customers more connectivity to the digital world than ever before, using autonomous technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML) to make buying a product in person more informative, faster, and more convenient.
More touch-based interfaces:
As ‘touch’ becomes the most popular form of digital interaction for today’s mobile consumers, we expect a rise in experimentation with branded retail-focused visual search, AR, and voice applications to tap into today’s consumers thirst for immersive or touch-based experiences and make the physical retail journey all the more frictionless.
A reduction in lines:
Perhaps the most significant development that is expected to take the world of retail by storm this year is technology that helps eliminate the tedious task of lining up while shopping in person. Last year, Amazon announced the launch of their groundbreaking ‘checkout-less’ shopping concept to 3,000 physical locations over the next three years. Moreover, sporting retailer JD is set to roll out their unique brand of ‘un-manned’ shops by using integrated mobile technology to help customers check out and pay for their products while browsing in-store without the need to wait in line.
There’s no denying it – the retail industry has changed. No longer are brick and mortar stores and their online counterparts separate entities competing against one another. In the modern age, there is more opportunity than ever before for online and offline shopping experiences to complement one another. Ride the crest of this new and exciting wave, and brick and mortar retailing success will be yours for the taking.
For more invaluable industry insights, check out our guide to how to use traditional media to cut through the noise in 2019.