Digital to Physical Retail: Why Retail Startups Still Need an Old-Fashioned Store
The rise of ecommerce has made the in-person experience all the more valuable to the shopper. Just ask digital-native startups Warby Parker, Rent the Runway, Birchbox and ThredUp. Digital to physical retail is now a part of their strategy.
These retailers clearly understand that the physical store delivers an increasingly unique and important experience – the human touch. Meaningful, memorable, personal IRL interactions between a customer and a brand (we call them Shopper Moments) are necessary to balance a transactional digital presence.
RetailDive has proven it. Their survey shows that most consumers favor the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Here are the four biggest findings that retail startups should know:
1. Try Before You Buy Tops Most Shoppers List of Benefits
Perhaps not surprisingly, the response that dominated shopper’s preferences was the ability to “see, touch, feel, and try out items.” Sixty-two percent of respondents said they appreciated the opportunity to try before they buy as the most important part of the shopping experience, with women in particular preferring the ability to experience their products before making the decision to purchase.
It’s easy to assume that age plays a role in the desire to see, touch, and feel something before making a purchase. After all, older generations grew up in a world where shopping in-store and trying on clothes before making a purchase was the norm. However, this assumption proved to be untrue as both young and old shoppers said they prefer to have the opportunity to try an item before making a purchase.
2. Instant Gratification Was a Close Second
Forty-nine percent of respondents said that the ability to take items home immediately was a big driver when it came to choosing brick-and-mortar stores over shopping online.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to e-commerce companies. Amazon continues to try to match consumers’ need for instant gratification – first, with Prime 2-day shipping, and then overnight shipping. Talk of package delivery by drones in some areas has been circulating as well. Still, no matter what online retailers do, none of these tactics will provide the truly instant gratification today’s consumers want. Digital to physical retail initiatives by digital giants like Amazon are a reaction to consumer demand.
3. The Ability to Return Items More Easily is Important
Shoppers want a simple, painless process. Twenty percent of consumers said they choose to shop in stores because they’re able to return items more easily.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many e-commerce stores have started to offer free returns (and why Amazon requires free returns of their sellers). Still, consumers like the return process to be just as instantaneous as the purchase process, which means brick-and-mortar stores have a marked advantage.
4. The In-Store Experience is Enjoyable
Chatbots, speedy responses to emails and around-the-clock phone support can’t beat a face-to-face conversation with a sales associate or an in-store shopping experience with a friend.
Eighteen percent of respondents said they enjoy shopping in stores for the social aspect. It’s more enjoyable for consumers to have other people around while making decisions. These people can be your sales associates who help the buyer find the right size, or a friend who makes a judgment call on a color. No matter who offers the advice, buyers like it enough to opt for the in-store experience over online. This response was consistent for both men and women alike making digital to physical retail initiatives a no brainer across the board.