Is Experiential Brick and Mortar Worth the Hype?

Brick and mortar isn’t dying — we promise. According to a Google study, 61% of shoppers would rather browse, discover, and purchase items from brands in a physical retail store rather than an online one. The same study also found that 81% of shoppers would go into a brick-and-mortar storefront when that location is sure to have an item they need or want immediately available.

Even with the new wave of retail where customers surf the web to find what they need, brick-and-mortar stores continue to thrive. So, what does this mean for retailers?

Understanding Consumer Preferences

Let’s start by understanding why shoppers turn to online stores. Is it really because they want to purchase the next best thing from the comfort of their couch while they’re still dressed in pajamas? I think it’s more than that, and research can back me up.

If you’re a trend-watcher who keeps a pulse of what’s new in retail (and honestly, even if you’re not), you’ve likely heard about omnichannel, unified commerce, or both. The driving force behind both methodologies is customer experience; consumers expect their dealings with a retailer to be easy and frictionless and merchants have had to adjust their processes to ensure they are up to par. Shoppers want to know that wherever they turn, they’ll be able to find what they need.

So, thinking back to the PJ-clad shopper who is browsing e-commerce sites, they likely are doing so because they know that through the power of online searches, they’ll find the item they’re looking for. But what if in-person retailers could offer the same guarantee? Technology has enabled brick-and-mortar storefronts to provide shoppers with a myriad of options that ensure customers never walk away without making a purchase. Imagine you’re looking for a dress shoe but just your luck, your desired size and color is sold out. That’s when an associate could offer you an iPad where you can pick the product you want, enter your shipping information, provide payment, and have the item shipped to your home.

Not only does this interconnected style of retail help merchants provide next-level service to shoppers, but it also provides them with the opportunity to offer extended product lines, high-end items, and value-added services that put them ahead of the competition — all without taking upfront or back-end storage space. Canadian jeweler, Mejuri, has flagship stores where they only offer a limited selection of take-home items. Instead, they use their full-scale showroom to provide an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere to try on pieces and find the perfect look before ordering.

Mejuri-Press-11Photo by Mejuri

Your Perfect Technology Match

If you’ve been looking for retail technology to up your game, you know that the options are almost endless. Trying to understand what the best tech is for your business can be overwhelming when you’re evaluating price, functionality, usability, scalability, and so much more. To narrow the field of effective candidates, it’s important to know what kind of mission your shoppers are on. Do they turn to you when:

  • They know what they’re looking for but need more information to make a decision?
  • They know exactly what item (make, model, color, size, etc.) they’re looking for?
  • They don’t know what they’re looking for but know you’re the expert that can guide their way?

Answering that single question can help your business plot your customers’ path to purchase, ensuring that you’re providing helpful technologies at every touchpoint that will streamline, not hinder, their in-store experience.

Take Reformation, for example. With ethically-minded, unique, and sustainable products lining their shelves, Reformation knew that their clientele was looking to browse and would need to try items on to get their full effect. So, this women’s apparel brand made the changeroom experience fun.

Shoppers browse items on the rack, but when they’d like to try an item, they choose their size from an interactive touchscreen. Once they’ve completed their perusing, they go to the changeroom where their items are waiting for them; it’s in-store drop ship making retail memories. Not only that, but small touches like a customer having access to an aux cord for their room and the ability to change the lighting from warm to cool ensures shoppers truly feel like home.

Atmosphere is Everything

Even with technology at the helm of today’s great retail experiences, we can’t forget about what truly makes a shopping trip memorable. We’ve said it before: in-person retail isn’t dying, boring in-person retail is. Think of any retail giant who has fallen like the proverbial Goliath — Toy’s R Us, Claire’s, B&B Bachrach, and Bon-Ton are just a few of the notable names who filed for bankruptcy last year. And what did these merchants have in common? Walk into any of them and you’re greeted with cold, shelved corridors of product, terrible, fluorescent lighting, and school-gym-esque linoleum flooring. Not exactly the most welcoming retail environment if you ask me.

Retailers today have come to the realization that the in-store experience needs to be one that relaxes a consumer and encourages their interaction with associates to help them find what they need. Glossier, an American-made makeup brand, recently launched their first flagship location after having been an online-only retailer for years. Putting down roots in New York City was a risk, considering the price of real estate, but Glossier sure knew what they were doing.

Glossier-FlagshipPhoto by Rosemarie Ho

Even if you’re not a makeup aficionado, you have to appreciate their tact. Putting the fun in functional, Glossier has created a visual adventure for shoppers as they meander through the store in an effort to create an adult Disneyland.” And with their touchscreen tablets near the products, customers can try an item then order on the screen. When they’re done, all products are wrapped and ready at the cashier’s desk.

So, it’s safe to say that experiential brick and mortar is something worth investing in. But the buck doesn’t stop there. It’s almost become cliché to say retail is ever-changing” but it doesn’t make the statement any less true. Experience is the be-all, end-all of a successful business so be sure you’re giving your shoppers something to tell their friends about. Whether your retail store employs small enhancements like digital signage or next-level customer service to keep customers in the know or you’re planning to create an immersive retail journey, creating a memorable experience will be the key to success.

Want to create great experiential experiences for your customers? It all starts with having the best retail software — the kind that it tailored to your unique business.