It’s one of the most popular and controversial topics in retail today: Will automation and digital disruption push people and brick-and-mortar retailers out of the picture?
While there are many advocates for either side of the debate, here at InMoment, we believe that the in-store experience is just as relevant today, despite the digital age we live in. In fact, in our recent Humans v. Robots webinar with CustomerThink.com, Brennan Wilke, senior vice president of customer experience at InMoment, and Tyler Saxey, director of customer experience for Foot Locker, discussed the reasoning and research behind our opinion.
Based on findings from InMoment’s 2017 Retail Trends Report, our presenters shared several great reasons while the in-store experience still plays an important role in the retail industry:
1. Immediate Gratification
For customers, one of the biggest draws to a physical store is instant gratification. They can walk through the doors, see the selection, grab something off the shelf, and buy it.
With an in-store purchase, customers can enjoy their new items the moment they walk out the door. This type of satisfaction is simply not possible for the digital-only customer, who needs to wait for shipping and processing even after the transaction is complete. For the eager customer, brick-and-mortar retailers are still the way to go.
2. Previous Good Experiences
Another advantage for physical retailers is that they can build upon previous positive experiences. If a customer has gone to a store and has had an employee go above and beyond for them, they are more likely to make the trip again. Why? Because their previous experience made them feel important and valued; who wouldn’t like that?
If retailers are able to empower their staff to provide good experiences for customers, they can essentially guarantee customer loyalty.
3. Perceived Quality
In our research for the 2017 Retail Trends Report, we found that retail customers tend to perceive the quality of in-store goods to be greater than that of items bought online. Even though the items may be the same and in the same condition, the ability for clients to see, touch, and hold the items in their hands assures the customer that the item they are buying is exactly what they want.
Online retailers can’t provide the same sort of assurance, so when customers are especially concerned with quality, they are more likely to make the trip to a physical retailer.
4. The Human Element
The final and most important reason why in store retailers have an edge in their industry might be the most obvious: their people. The fact of the matter is that as social beings, we still prefer and value quality, interpersonal interactions.
When a customer speaks with a sales associate, they get to check items off their shopping list and connect with someone who will help them find what they need. This gives a sales transaction a priceless social element, and as I stated previously, it’s those personal relationships and experiences that keep customers coming back for more.
In light of these key in store differentiators, it’s clear that brick-and-mortar locations still have their place in the retail industry. In this case, it is important not to solely focus your efforts on digital resources, but instead to think about how you can use technology to empower your people.