A question we’re all hearing often enough now is “How can brick-and-mortar stores compete with e-commerce?” This question usually leads to meetings on how to revamp the customer’s online shopping experience, which is never a bad thing. But then there’s always the unspoken follow-up question: “Does creating an in-store retail experience even matter anymore?” The answer is Yes, it still does—and here’s why:
- Your customer has choices.
Long gone are the days of competing with three or four stores in town, and maybe a few others in the next town over. Retail stores today—no matter their size—are competing on a global scale thanks to the Internet.
Being local and dependable only takes you so far. Today’s customer who always has a mobile phone handy is able to find competitive prices in only a few clicks. This doesn’t mean you need to slash prices or shut down stores—it simply means that the in-store experience matters even more.
- The majority of consumers still prefer to shop in-store.
Across the majority of industries, consumers still overwhelmingly prefer to shop in-store. E-commerce has certainly been growing over the years, but it still has far to go before it’s completely displacing brick-and-mortar.
Customers are coming into furniture stores specifically because they need an interaction they can’t get online. Home furniture is a serious commitment, often involving a pretty substantial price tag, with some particular pieces having a near-permanent residence in a customer’s home. This makes seeing the merchandise in person much more important than it is in other product categories.
How to make your retail experience matter
- Listen to your customers
If there’s one defining trait of the modern consumer, it is that they are informed. In the age of mobile phones and information at the tap of a finger, a customer who doesn’t know precisely what they’re looking for as soon as they walk in the door is a rare sight. A report from the eCommerce Foundation found that 88% of U.S. consumers researched products online before buying in-store in 2017.
So what does this mean for you? There are two major takeaways:
1. The customer coming into your store wants to be listened to—not sold to.
2. Make sure your online presence is as polished and as convenient as possible.
- Don’t be afraid to innovate
Continuing on the theme of being digital savvy, consider making the leap to a more streamlined digital/in-store experience. You won’t get ahead by doing retail as it’s always been done. Simply equipping sales staff with the right tech and digital know-how can go a long way to providing a more in-depth customer service experience. Check out these recent examples from Nordstrom and Sephora for some inspiration.
- Make your retail experience an experience
Don’t forget to use your physical store to your advantage. A store can offer an experience that is completely immersive, as opposed to the surface-level online shopping experience.
Don’t know where to start?
1. Think about making your store a destination. It may involve some unique floor planning, but consider adding a simple lounge area with coffee and WiFi, some area to allow shoppers a minute to relax and get off their feet. Think retail innovators like Costco, Starbucks, IKEA.
2. Consider making a unique visual presentation a part of your showroom experience. Check out this great example from Birchbox, a pioneering beauty products e-tailer that opened up their first brick-and-mortar store in July, and translated their unique digital concept into an immersive in-store experience.
Change is tough—we never said it would be easy. But remember that new challenges simply mean new opportunities for growth. The vast majority of customers are still coming into stores to purchase product—the only difference now is that they’re not content with the same old sales pitch and unexciting showrooms. Make your retail experience something that matters, and you’ll keep them coming back.
After you've upgraded your store's retail experience, how can you be sure that it's having the desired effect? One word: reviews. Check out our blog on listening to your customers and effectively managing your feedback.