• Barbara Mettle-Olympio

The future of shopping: why in-person experiences are essential


Over the last two years, brands have been forced to improve their digital strategy. Regardless of whether they were trading solely online or set up in a traditional brick-and-mortar store, the impact of the pandemic meant accelerating digital transformation was the only way to survive and meet the demands of their customers.


One could be forgiven for thinking that the physical shopping experience would be all but a distant memory, forever consigned to the history books.


However, it’s 2022 now and consumer demand for in-person retail experiences is far from disappearing. In fact, it’s rapidly gaining on pre-pandemic levels. Online shopping still has its place, without a doubt, but brands must keep up the pace if they hope to stay relevant in today’s competitive market and that means offering an unforgettable, in-person retail experience.


The data speaks for itself

  1. According to Statista, 64% of UK consumers prefer to shop on the high street instead of browsing online.

  2. A Deloitte survey showed that 53% of clothing shoppers and 46% of electronics shoppers intended to shop in-store for products in these respective categories.

  3. Data from Kearney suggests that 81% of Gen Z shoppers like to discover, trial and purchase new products in-store.

  4. And, according to the Office for National Statistics, 25.3% of retail sales were made online in January 2022, the lowest since March 2020.


With data like this, there is no denying that shoppers are hungry for in-person experiences. What’s perhaps even more fascinating is the demand seen in younger consumers. Despite being raised in a world where almost anything can be instantly acquired with the simple click of a button, this digitally-native generation wants to see, touch and test products in a real-world, physical space.


Nothing beats human connection


Online fatigue is real. All too often we’re bombarded with screens and devices that are vying for our attention. This has only become more pertinent in the past two years, where consumers have been starved of social interactions and limited to online platforms to carry out their shopping.


There is now a longing to return to a sense of ‘normality’ and catch up on months of missed social opportunities. In a recent report by Forbes, 44% of respondents stated they were most looking forward to shopping (as well as working and socialising) as they used to do before the pandemic.


The way for brands to combat online fatigue and engage with their audience on a meaningful level is by building human connection.


The good news is that building that human connection with your customers doesn’t need to be hard, so long as you have the right people on your team. Investing in talented, engaging individuals and training them to ensure they are fully equipped to deliver shoppers an excellent, personalised service is the way brands will stand out from the competition in this new retail landscape.


Omnichannel is the holy grail of retail


It’s important to remember that the consumer’s online interaction with your brand shouldn’t be forgotten or cut off from their in-person shopping experience. Rather, the two elements must merge to form a seamless and cyclical journey, allowing them to interact with your brand at any and all times, no matter where they might be physically.


How this is executed all depends on what your customers are asking for. There are a few questions you should consider to help find the perfect omnichannel balance:

  • Where are the majority of your customers based? Do you have a physical presence already set up here (e.g. a store or a pop-up?)

  • What are your most popular and highest-selling products? Are customers looking to trial these items before buying or get a product demo?

  • Where are customers making purchases? Is it in-store or online?


Once you have the answers to these initial questions, you can start to formulate a strategy for delivering a successful omnichannel experience that matches your consumers’ demands.


Plan, pilot and perfect


As with anything, testing a new retail strategy is vital. It helps to reduce risk, manage customer expectations and develop innovations that work for your brand.


The planning stage comes first and encompasses everything from brainstorming initial ideas to market research. Next is carrying out the pilot, whether that’s opening a physical brand space for the first time or launching a store in a previously unexplored location. By running the pilot, brands can begin to gather data and apply any learnings to perfect their strategy as they move forward.


To avoid being left behind in the rapidly changing world of retail, brands must embrace the in-person retail experience and deliver those physical touchpoints that have become integral to positive brand sentiment. Human connection has never been so highly sought after ‒ it’s time to give the people what they want.


 

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