Why the future looks promising for brick-and-mortar stores
When online shopping came into the picture, many predicted death chimes for the brick-and-mortar stores. The comfort of shopping from mobile apps and websites from anywhere, anytime was a big respite for the time-crunched millennial shopper. Moreover, for the price-sensitive shopper, heavy discounts and coupons worked wonders. However, regardless of the convenience, millennials are showing their loyalty towards physical stores. In fact, they are enjoying the in-store shopping experience.
Millennials are extremely savvy online customers and can get their hands on the best products and services. In fact, many of them polish their shopping skills online by surfing through the product ratings, reviews and feedback to choose vendors who provide the best value and service. However, this doesn’t stop them from frequenting brick-and-mortar venues, simply because they also want to touch and feel the product prior to purchasing.
Pursuit for the best
Nordstrom is a classic example of the evolution of brick-and-mortar stores. It has recently opened stores called Nordstrom Local that doesn’t have any merchandise. Instead, you can grab a coffee or a cocktail, visit a manicure bar or sit down with a stylist. After that conversation, you can have items delivered to the store based on what you like. When it comes to shopping, millennials are looking for a unified and seamless experience across multiple channels; that means being able to effortlessly transition from smartphones and laptops to physical stores in their pursuit for the best products and services.
The level of experience and excitement these millennial customers are expecting now is the new norm even for retail brands. As consumers, they have stopped looking at online and offline separately and are considering various touchpoints to interact with a brand. Brands like Snowe, Bonobos, and Warby Parker are opening up more and more physical retail locations. At these stores, you can find associates who will truly go out of their way to help you shop; there are exclusives that you might not be able to snag online, and well-designed interiors that you’ll never want to leave.
Innovative retail formats
Millennials tend to make the majority of their choices backed by their experience than the products. Hence, retailers must emphasise on developing a customer-centric approach in their businesses so that consumers can interact with the product or brand, and even give their feedback for the same.
Today, online players in almost all the segments are already acing the game by delivering experience-based shopping through the integration of AR and VR. Witnessing their success, offline stores, too, are following the trend by implementing these immersive technologies to redefine convenience for consumers. A handful of retail chains have also started leveraging these technologies to enable new-age consumers to simply walk in, find their preferred products through a virtual inventory, and try the outfits via a virtual mirror, without actually having to do it physically. Big Data is yet another revolutionary technology that has made its way into the offline retail space to enable businesses understand their customer expectations by predicting the popularity of products and identifying the relevant customers.
The retail environment is, perhaps, changing faster than many companies would have expected. It is primarily because they are constantly making deeper changes across their entire organisations to deliver products and services in a seamless manner to millennials and the tech-savvy future generations. While the future looks promising for brick-and-mortar stores, retail businesses will have to actively introduce the millennial customers to their products in a more profound and personalised manner.
The author is founding director, 1-India Family Mart