The rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has led many people to believe that that physical retail stores will soon be a thing of the past. After all, e-commerce feels more convenient as you can shop from the comfort of home. Even Google has seen an increase in the number of people wondering whether brick and mortar stores are dying.
We’re glad to report that, like many future predictions, the reality is a lot less scary. As post-pandemic studies and recent data has shown, physical retail is still thriving and here to stay.
E-commerce is not the only future
While e-commerce grew in popularity during the pandemic, post-pandemic statistics show that people are returning to their old ways. E-commerce sales in 2022 have slowed down. Some of this is likely pent up demand for shoppers who missed shopping in person during the pandemic. But according to research, 59% of shoppers do not trust internet-only brands. At the same time, e-commerce only companies continue to struggle to turn a profit. Many companies who bet on an e-commerce only future are now paying the price.
Brick and mortar retail stores are continuing to grow
Even after all of the COVID-19 lockdowns, brick & mortar retail stores are thriving. In fact, for every brick and mortar business that shut down, two more businesses opened up. On top of that, sales in physical retail have actually gone up post-pandemic. In-store shopping has seen a 13.7% boost compared to pre-pandemic levels. This growth doesn’t just apply to big names like Walmart, but to small independently owned businesses as well! In fact, over 60% of small businesses are expected to grow their revenue over the next year. This is a trend that can be seen from pre-pandemic statistics as well. Reports show that between 2016 – 2021, the revenue of smaller retailers grew at an average of 51.33%.
And certain consumers actually prefer in-store shopping. The majority of Boomers and Gen X customers say that they shop in-store “all the time”. In fact, younger people such as Gen Z (along with Gen X) are two generations that actually shop more in-person than online. For them, their entire lives are already digital and physical retail appeals to them as experiential shopping
The shopping experience is too important
Another key reason why brick & mortar stores still appeal to shoppers is because it is still by far a better shopping experience. At the beginning we mentioned how e-commerce provides a certain level of convenience that physical retail can’t. Yet when it comes to immediate consumption, this is something that only physical shopping can offer. There is a level of satisfaction one can feel shopping in-store and taking something home right away. This is why the term retail therapy exists.
But beyond immediate satisfaction, shopping at brick and mortar stores allows customers to get an engaged shopping experience that they simply can’t find online. Being able to physically hold a product and sometimes try it out before purchase is a big factor in deciding to buy something. 59% of consumers say that the ability to try, touch and feel a product is key for in-store shopping over online.
And when shopping in-store, one of the top priorities for shoppers is convenience, especially at checkout. After all, 97% of consumers have backed out of a purchase due to inconvenience. So if you are in or planning to enter the physical retail industry, be sure to offer easy checkout options. Things like self-checkout enhance the shopping experience for customers greatly.
The future is omnichannel
Throughout this post, it may have felt like we are saying that e-commerce is worse than physical retail. However, the future of the retail today is really a combination of physical and digital shopping. As we mentioned before, consumers want convenience. Omnichannel offers the most convenience to consumers as it allows them to shop from anywhere, 24/7. There’s a reason why 58.6% of retailers are heavily investing in omnichannel fulfillment and 70% of small businesses have adopted digital tools over the past year.
The benefits of omnichannel aren’t just for customers either. Retailers are able to have more control over their business and sell more when they offer omnichannel shopping. After all, retailers who don’t sell on multiple channels end up missing out on ~30% of sales.
Being able to serve your customers in a variety of channels will soon be the standard in retail. For e-commerce, store pickup or fulfillment of online orders from local stores support main streets, is better for the environment and get products to customers faster as delivery costs increase. In order to keep up with the future, your retail business needs to be an omnichannel one.
Now, more than ever, is the best time to invest in omnichannel! Make sure your business is future-proof by implementing software that can support your business over time. Check out TAKU Retail and ensure your business is resilient and able to serve customers the way they expect to shop today.
You may have heard of the retail term “guideshop” in the last several years. Brands such as Bonobos have had great success with guideshop stores. This retail strategy is a throwback to the idea of “showrooms” and works particularly well for retailers in the age of ecommerce. In fact, running a guideshop is also known as “showrooming”. But what exactly is a guideshop and why should retailers consider it for their physical stores?
A physical store where customers can experience the products before purchasing it. The physical store only showcases the product for customer experience but do not sell any physical items. Customers place orders in the physical store [that] will be delivered to their homes.
It’s easy to understand why guideshops are also known as showrooming. After all, showrooms are traditionally physical locations where businesses display merchandise so that consumers can engage with products before ordering. One of the best modern examples is Dyson’s demo shop. Showrooms and guideshops typically carry little to no inventory for immediate purchase.
Who should consider this store strategy?
Showrooming and guideshops are traditionally best for retailers who sell products which customers prefer to take a look at, try on, or test out before purchase. Typically these products don’t sell as well if only sold online. In particular, showrooms are great when the retailer’s products physically take up a lot of space or are of high-value, both of which makes it hard to stock inventory in-store. Think of things such as appliances, furniture, jewelry, etc. With furniture for example, retailers have limited warehousing space since their stores need a lot of display space. But their shoppers often want to physically see how big a piece of furniture is, how comfortable it is, and how it feels in person before purchasing.
The change today is that non-traditional showroom products are also able to use guideshops to offer better customer service with smaller, more cost-effective shops. This is exactly how Bonobos guideshops work. They are smaller stores where customers can go in and try on the entire product line for delivery at home. But Bonobos has made an effort to provide above-average customer service by training employees to help customers find the right fit and size.
Not only are guideshop stores easier and cheaper to operate without the cost of carrying stock, better trained sales associates encourage higher sales per shopper. And naturally, because customers will have a profile setup for their pickup or delivery, all of the shopping data in-store and online is stored for better customer service and personalized digital marketing.
Another key market for guideshops are retailers that manufacture or sell their own private-label brands. When you sell a brand that cannot be found anywhere else, there isn’t a risk that shoppers will try on merchandise in-store and buy the products elsewhere. In this case, guideshops offer a cost-effective way to run more smaller physical stores without the carrying costs of traditional brick & mortar stores.
What kind of customers does this appeal to?
Guideshops tend to attract shoppers that enjoy touching, seeing or interacting with products before buying them. The slower, discovery process involved with customer service-driven guideshops and the inconvenience of carrying products around while shopping makes guideshops more attractive to shoppers in urban centers or walkable main streets. The strategy generally works even better for high value items where shoppers expect superior service and delivery may be considered more secure than walking around with a bag from an expensive store. For example, people often visit the Apple Store to test out new devices since they are expensive. But oftentimes during checkout, Apple shoppers will have their purchase shipped home to avoid carrying a bag around with the Apple logo on it.
The benefits of retail showrooms and guideshops
Hopefully this article has helped you get a good idea on why showrooming is great. To recap, here are the benefits of using a guideshop store strategy:
Lower costs: Carrying less inventory is the easiest way to lower the overhead costs of your business. Keep in mind, you can also offer store pick up options to keep costs lower!
Better experience for customers: Employees focus on helping customers find the perfect product for them and even upsell additional ones.
Sell more things: With less space required to stock products, showrooming allows stores to showcase more products. Retailers can sell products without having to stock anything and can simply order for delivery after taking payment.
Now that you understand what guideshops are, consider whether this could be a good strategy for your retail business. It is definitely a retail trend which will continue to change the way people shop.
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