Why Shopping Online Will Never Live Up To The In-Store Experience

Despite what you may think, the in-store shopping experience has changed significantly in recent years — from enhanced ‘retailtainment’ to more effective queue management. However, it’s also important to appreciate that the in-store shopping experience is irreplaceable to any online alternatives. Read on as we explore how shoppers are looking for an experience when they visit a store — often by using new technology.

Behaviour is changing

Unlike many moons ago, we’d go to the shop to hunt out the latest products — today, we know exactly what we want. In fact, 98% of Gen-Z shoppers walk into shops and find what they’re looking for by themselves. We no longer start the buying process by window shopping. Instead, we’ve probably seen something on social media, scanned the reviews and made a purchase decision before we head out the door. Of course, this doesn’t mean that retailers should be giving up or becoming less competitive, they can still grab the attention of their audience through in-store engagement and customer relationship building — two things that an e-commerce site would find difficult to achieve.

Customers want something that’s tailored to their own needs, not the masses, and what better way to find out what these are than with a face-to-face conversation? Yes, customers can fill in an online form with their customisation requirements, but they don’t get to see the product until it has arrived. With an in-store experience, customers can tell the retailer their requirements and feel more confident that they’ll be carried out — this type of engagement is non-comparable to a form or live chat feature.

For many businesses, they’re looking to become a hub of entertainment for their customers. It’s all about offering in-store experiences — not necessarily to lead to direct sales but to encourage visitors to the store. This could be real-life mannequins, a performance, or an interactive competition that grabs attention. It’s all about thinking outside the box and offering experiences that aren’t available online. An example of this would be at the Apple Store, which often hosts different activities for customers: from learning how to make music on GarageBand to creating your own emojis!

Technology is the way forward

Technology has undoubtedly become a huge part of our lives, often assisting us with the smallest of tasks. So, why should it be any different when we step inside a store? In fact, it’s somewhat expected. Some companies are being innovative when it comes to their in-store technology — after all, more time in-store can lead to better customer relationships and hopefully, sales.

QUIZ is one example, as they encourage the use of an in-store kiosk. This enables visitors to browse the full collection of products even if they aren’t available in store and get them delivered to their home address. It also presents a wider range of products to the customer including different colours and sizes that may not be in stock in store. When we consider that 66% of Gen-Z surveyed said product availability is important, in-store technologies such as the above are a necessity for retailers.

As well as this, Tiffany and Co’s store in Covent Garden is all about accessibility. In this store, visitors are able to personalise jewellery and there is even a Tiffany perfume vending machine. These concepts have driven customers to the store and encouraged social media conversation in a way that an online experience may have struggled.

Taking a different approach, the likes of IKEA offer customers the option to eat in their onsite restaurant. Made.com also attaches QR codes to their products around their store to encourage users to find and make a purchase online if this is the payment channel they prefer.

The overall experience

Everything your customer experiences matters, and you need to deliver to their expectations. Something that brings together the physical aspects of store visits with digital aspects from online shopping. For example, 51% of respondents who use retail mobile apps use them while shopping in-store, and this is mainly to redeem in-store discounts, compare prices, view product ratings and find products. By being able to offer this all-round experience, businesses can be part of the entire customer buying journey.

Although digital is rising, you need to continue your focus on the in-store experience. What a customer can gain from visiting a store in person can build relationships and shape opinions in a way that an online-only brand couldn’t. With the “death of the high street” playing over many retailers minds, it’s important to bear all of this in mind when planning ahead.



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