In 2017, consumers in the United States spent $453.46 billion in online shopping, a sharp increase from $390.99 billion in 2016 (U.S. Commerce Department). This marks the highest year-on-year uptick in online sales since 2011. It also names e-commerce as the main growth driver in the retail sector, with 4.4 percent overall growth compared to online shopping’s 16 percent in 2017.
Now that retail sales are shifting to digital channels, to what extent should marketers invest in brick-and-mortar retail experiences? After all, it’s so much easier to track important data points (such as purchase history, preferences, spending volume) online.
It turns out that while people warn about the death of in-store retail, shoppers are not ready to break old habits.
According to current research from Market Track, consumers still prefer in-store purchasing over digital by tremendous margins in almost all product segments. This is particularly true for big-ticket categories such as automobiles (88 percent), major appliances (85 percent), and tools/hardware (77 percent). Most surprisingly, digitally disrupted categories also cling to stationary retail, for instance electronics (69 percent), apparel/footwear (68 percent), and tablets/smartphones (61 percent).
But these numbers are no guarantee that brick-and-mortar retail will stay relevant in the long run. Especially considering that shoppers, pampered by online retail’s efficiency and customer-centricity, are now demanding the best shopping experiences both online and offline.
In order to keep customers coming back, retailers better be prepared to go the extra mile. Here’s what today’s entitled consumers demand from their retail experiences in 2018:
Entitled consumers demand efficiency
Nothing beats in-store retail when it comes to instant gratification. About 49 percent of consumers choose to visit actual stores over shopping online because they prefer taking items home immediately (Retail Dive). But, keep in mind that they still have a low tolerance for browsing to look for products. That’s why 74 percent of consumers name convenience – including easy product searches – as the main reason they buy products like groceries online (Savvy).
Another deal breaker for in-store retail is waiting in line. In fact, it’s the biggest frustration according to 60 percent of survey takers (Mood Media). But efficiency-minded shoppers won’t return home from the store empty-handed, which is why over 80 percent of American shoppers insist on the ability to check product availability online in advance at nearby stores (PixelMEDIA).
Winning retail strategy: Retailers need clearly structured store layouts and keep in-demand products in stock. Connecting ERP (Enterprise resource planning) systems to e-commerce storefronts lets consumers check availability online in advance.
Entitled consumers demand personalized recommendations
Aside from instant purchases, here’s another advantage for customers visiting brick-and-mortar retailers: Real-life attention from real-life sales personnel (as opposed to chatbots) ranks high among customers. When it comes to offering personalized customer service experiences, physical retailers do a good job, according to 31 percent of shoppers- compared to only 15 percent for digital retailers (Epsilon).
Over 75 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a retailer who knows their name as well as their purchase history and can recommend preferred products (Accenture). But this is where most companies are still failing: According to a Selligent survey, only 34 percent of companies are able to identify their customers at the moment of interaction. Unsurprisingly, physical retailers only received a 12 percent rating on offering personal recommendations, overshadowed by 27 percent for digital stores (Epsilon).
Winning retail strategy: Retailers can boost their sales by identifying high-performing customers as soon as they set foot in their store and shower them with personal attention. Many fashion retailers create personalized product recommendations and apply loyalty points at checkout.
Entitled Consumers want expert product knowledge
In the beginning stages of the online shopping revolution, physical retail was plagued by “showrooming”; the practice of trying products in-store only to order from online vendors at cheaper prices. In 2018, the situation has fully reversed to “webrooming”: Consumers first perform extensive research online – about 65 percent of U.S. shoppers (Retail Dive) – before visiting stores ready to purchase.
But sales conversations can go off the rails quickly when consumers know more about products than store personnel. Asked about their main frustrations with in-store shopping, 33 percent of U.S. internet users named “staff unable to assist” (Mood Media). Also remember that 29 percent of shoppers choose to visit a store in the first place because they need help to understand a product or service (BookingBug). Do your homework.
Winning retail strategy: Keep staff updated via regular training sessions on products and consumer trends. E-commerce giant Coolblue relies on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s Universal Consumer Profiles to send product how-to demos and related tutorials. Authenticity goes a long way. When In doubt, look up the solution together with the customer. Nobody’s perfect!
Entitled consumers want the best deals
With the advent of online shopping, customers are now conditioned to hunt for the best prices at every step before purchasing. When it comes to choosing where to purchase from, 64 percent of shoppers named “available deals” as the biggest factor affecting their decision (Criterio). With that in mind, it may seem downright dishonest if a physical store fails to alert visitors to active promotions otherwise found online.
Here’s where bridging the gap between digital and real-life can pay off for your brand: Retail stores that can recognize customers upon entry can also draw from rich consumer profiles to generate personalized offers and coupons on the spot.
Today’s entitled customers demand nothing less: 33.5 percent of North American internet users said they would like personalized offers sent directly to their phone to improve their in-store shopping experiences (iVend). Again, personalization is key to keeping customers coming back. 44 percent of consumers report they would repeat a store visit after a personalized shopping experience (Segment).
“Entitled Consumers” want unique experiences
It’s not surprising that some shoppers prefer to visit stores when stores inherently offer shopping experiences they can’t have at home. In fact, 73 percent of shoppers visit physical stores to touch, feel, and see an item in person (BookingBug). But the future of “experiential retail” goes far beyond simply products, as illustrated by runaway success of the U.S. retail chain Museum of Ice Cream. Their stores offer few shoppable products. Instead, what they offer are also “instagrammable experiences”, or brightly-colored backdrops for #sweet social media selfies. For this experience, customers wait in line for hours!
With trends like these on the rise, shopping trips are increasingly social outings shared with friends. Consumers will often seek out stores that offer social perks, like in-store cafes and sample product events. These next-level experiences can also bridge the gap between real-life and digital worlds: According to a recent GfK survey, 27 percent of shoppers would be more likely to visit a store that offered “some sort of virtual reality experiences”.
Winning retail strategy: Make shopping trips a memorable experience by creating excitement around stores and products. The sneaker industry has created the formula for building hype around products that have customers lining up for miles (read our story). And make it a personal experience by drawing on rich customer data, collected in real time across channels and touchpoints.
Customers are still willing to make the trip to a retail store, as long it’s worthwhile – and personal. In today’s digitally disrupted retail environment, stores can no longer drop the ball when it comes to identifying their customers and engaging them on habits and preferences. To connect all the dots, customer data platforms like Selligent Marketing Cloud are paving the way for personalized shopping experiences that will keep physical stores relevant for years to come.
Looking for more insights into the minds of today’s entitled consumers? Also read our free whitepaper Great customer experiences? Not without new customer lifecycles!