The COVID-19 lockdown boosted ecommerce rates dramatically in the UK and elsewhere.
Yet, could the pandemic have actually reminded people of the advantages of bricks-and-mortar shops over their online equivalents? Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
The in-store customer experience
According to research from February 2021, 74% of UK shoppers were missing the in-store experience. For 30%, this was because they wanted to touch things and try them on, while around 20% had been frustrated by buying the wrong thing online.
These findings were backed up a few months later by a survey which found that a whopping 80% of consumers were missing aspects of in-store shopping.
Some 43% wanted to be able to touch the items they were buying, while 41% wanted to try them on or test them out.
Meanwhile, 23% said they felt a lack of personal connection with online retailers. Slow delivery, lack of stock, and tricky returns processes were also cited as issues.
Alongside these practical advantages for in-store shopping, many people do just like to browse! Window shopping in a local high street or meandering through a mall is a pleasurable way to pass time, socialise, and ‘people watch’.
Shoppers’ imaginations can be sparked by the sight of new things they didn’t know they wanted – particularly if these are promoted in imaginative ways by retailers. Emotions are important when it comes to shopping, and may be more easily engaged in the real world than on a computer screen.
All of which goes some way to explaining why, according to research from before the pandemic, people tend to spend more in-store than they do online.
Think small and local
Throughout the pandemic, some bricks-and-mortar shops have fared well: spending at specialist grocery stores such as bakers, butchers and greengrocers rose by around 63%.
According to research from Barclaycard in early 2021, nearly two-thirds of people had shopped closer to home since the pandemic began – and 90% of them said they would continue to do so after the pandemic is over.
In part, that’s due to working from home, which is likely to continue to an extent.
It’s also because people are keen to support local businesses: they recognise the importance of shops to their local community life, want to consume in a more ethical way, and value one-to-one human customer service.
Reimagining in-store shopping
“With so many retail needs met online during the pandemic, what will bring people back to physical stores?” asked Accenture in its 2021 report, The Retail Experience Reimagined. “The answer lies in re-imagining real-world outlets into shape-shifting spaces for building brand loyalty and new shopping experiences that engage and delight.”
Increasingly, successful retailers are looking to move to a ‘phygital’ model, integrating their physical and digital presences into one omnichannel experience.
This is already happening through BOPIS – buy online, pick-up in-store – which blends the convenience of online browsing with the speed of collecting an item locally.
And in future, data from individual customers’ online and in-store shopping habits will be integrated to enable retailers to provide a more tailored experience.
Bricks-and-mortar stores cannot compete with online giants such as Amazon in terms of the range of stock or convenience. But they can flourish nonetheless, thanks to their other strengths.
So, it’s more important than ever that physical stores work hard to attract and engage customers and optimise the value of each visit. And that means innovative displays that combine data, technology and creativity to boost the customer experience, making it more personalised, interactive and enjoyable.
Get in touch
At Linney, we’re excited by the future of retail, and we’ve got loads of ideas and expertise to make your outlet work for you and your customers. Contact us today to discuss how we could work together.