A lot of conversations about retail focus on technology. The omnichannel experience, showrooming, big data, social assists, and of course e-commerce — these things have changed the retail landscape forever.
Retail Wire suggests that many stores are missing the point, though. The thing that will keep shoppers from ducking out to shop on their smartphones, according to the writer and the many commenters at the article, is a good in-store shopping experience — and that’s getting harder to find.
Consumers say that they get more information online than they do from store associates. 84% of smartphone users get online information from their phones — or from friends and relatives via their phones — while actually inside a brick and mortar store. Those who shop online instead of in a brick and mortar store do so because it makes their lives easier and saves them time, even more than because it saves them money. Often, consumers choose to shop online instead of in physical stores because the shopping experience is simply better.
There’s a bit of irony here. The online shopping experience is more like the old-fashioned retail experience in which a helpful salesperson who knew the store’s merchandise inside and out would help you find what you needed, suggest other things you might like, and delivered things to your home. You have to pay a lot nowadays to get that experience at the average retail store.
Technology in the stores allowed retailers to do away with all that and substitute something much less satisfying. Online merchants and savvy brands started providing the old-style experience on the web, and shoppers went there for what they were missing in brick and mortar stores.
The discussion at Retail Wire brought up many issues repeatedly:
- Poor management or overly centralized management
- Poor store level execution
- Attempts to replace human service with technology
- Using technology to avoid training staff
“It’s ridiculous that I have to be my own salesperson,” one commenter said. “Relying on technology rather than people to provide an outstanding customer experience,” said another, “is fool’s gold.”
And yet 70% of consumers choose to buy in a physical store. There’s something about shopping in stores that people like, even with the apparent drawbacks.
Any time people aren’t being served well by current solutions, there’s an opportunity for someone else to provide an alternative. Brick and mortar retailers generally can’t afford to give shoppers that old-fashioned experience — especially the larger ones. Small local merchants who can create a better shopping experience can use the web to sell that more luxurious option to customers. Larger retailers can leverage their online presence to make sure shoppers’ multichannel shopping experience stays with their properties, online and in the store. Brick and click can provide the best of both worlds for shoppers, and let technology level the playing field for them.
Is your store making the most of the omnichannel shopping experience? In your planning for the coming year, make sure that question is on your agenda.