There has been no shortage of doom-and-gloom predictions about the future of in-store retail. Several longstanding brick-and-mortar based stores have disappeared in recent years, with many others fighting to survive. But times of great upheaval present opportunity for change, and smart retailers are recognizing that opportunity, placing technology, service and experience at the heart of their business to change from the inside out.
Customers expect more from an in-store experience these days. Their perception of shopping has been altered by the advent of e-commerce, where personalized recommendations, near-instant delivery and detailed shopping histories are a click or two away. According to Fashion & Mash, 61 percent of consumers value asking a sales associate for product recommendations.
Beauty supply giant ULTA Beauty understands this, and makes use of its clientelling app to give associates access to a customer’s preferences and past purchases. This facilitates more personalized product recommendations based on real customer data. With more than 20,000 products carried by Ulta Beauty, being able to point a customer in the right direction is an invaluable time saver.
Between two-day shipping, next day shipping, same day shipping and this hour shipping, customers have grown accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it. This has forced retailers to dig into their logistics capabilities and ensure their clients can get the products they want in the timetable they expect. Many retailers are circumventing traditional delivery channels in favor of on-demand options. Sunglasses manufacturer Maui Jim invested in UberRUSH to offer door-to-door delivery in one hour or less. Others, like Walmart, have started offering a curbside pickup option, where customers can purchase online and within an hour, roll up to the nearest location and have their items placed directly in their car.
Making Shopping Fun Again
Stores are also focusing on what makes shopping fun, and have started incorporating entertainment elements into their in-store experience. Nike, for instance, build an indoor basketball court and soccer field at their new brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan. It’s on-brand, it gets customers in the sports mindset, and shows off their products in an interactive, fun way.
Many in the retail industry are flummoxed as e-commerce continues to erode their customer base. But instead they should be looking at the necessary evolve-or-die changes as an opportunity to win new customers, and remind old ones why they shop at their store in the first place. Change is usually hard, but it’s almost always worth it. Changing consumer perception of what a brick-and-mortar store can offer from a service and experience standpoint is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge.