It’s hard to argue against the fact that stores are becoming more challenging to manage. However, the role of the store in the shopping journey is still as relevant as it has ever been, just in a different way.
In the US, 12,000 stores have closed since 2010 with almost 5,000 of these closing in 2018. (1) However, for each company closing one store, 2.7 companies opened a new store. (2)In the Australian market, shoppers still show a clear preference to visit stores.
As Retail Futurist Doug Stephens predicts, it is inevitable that the role of the store will shift dramatically over coming years.
“Within a decade, sensor-driven replenishment, predictive analytic technology, immersive digital shopping experiences, subscription programs and a myriad of other connected shopping options—many of which we can’t yet even conceive of—will very effectively cater to our day-to-day product needs. We will order furniture and fashion online with implicit confidence because haptic technologies will give us the ability to touch and feel what we buy before we buy. Apparel-fitting algorithms infused with big data analytics will ensure the items we purchase are almost always ideally suited to both our bodies and our tastes. Using virtual or augmented reality technology in our home or office to shop and connect with product experts will be as common in ten years as shopping in a physical store is today. Save for a very few particular kinds of products, we will have absolutely no need to visit physical stores simply to look at products, as we do today. It’s that simple. Instead, the physical shopping space will become a medium to distribute the most powerful, joyful and emotionally galvanizing experiences possible.”
Amazon, Alibaba, Bonobos and other online-led players have created their own physical stores in the US; their investment indicates their appetite for offline retail. This year, physical retail will continue to venture beyond product, creating memorable experiences that pull customers in and have a stronger (and more emotional) influence over transactional selling. From learning courses, cafes, co-working spaces to bespoke pop-ups, retailers will create more social, tactile and in-store digital experiences that can’t be offered online. However, this does not excuse multi-store retailers from also investing in an online approach that allows their customers to buy on their chosen channel and device. After all, in the above charts, the sum of digital channels represents a higher proportion than preference to shop in-store.
“We believe the answer is in the middle, you’ve got to be able to serve customers at the touch point they want to be served”—Ron Harries, VP and Head of Retail Stores at TechStyle Fashion Group
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