Consumers’ preference for e-commerce is old news.
But do consumers love shopping online or are they just enamored with the tools available to them through e-commerce? While some consumers may never be lured back into stores on a regular basis, a recent survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers indicates that if retailers augmented the in-store experience with a few tech tools, some shoppers would be willing to opt for brick-and-mortar.
“Technology creates innumerable opportunities for retailers to better reach—and convert—consumers,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Collecting data on a shopper’s specific buying habits can create a healthier connection. Through closely understanding the wants and needs of shoppers, retailers can drive more store visits and create a stronger bond.”
Streamline the process
The first thing retailers might want to tackle is the ease of shopping.
Online, if you know what you want, you can locate it by simply entering a query into the search field. You may end up with a ton of options, but there they are: red skirts, tiny backpacks, gladiator sandals, whatever.
In a store, the experience can be quite different. The stores in your local mall may not carry the shoes you want, and even if they do, you might be expected to hunt among miles of aisles and through towers of shoeboxes to ultimately discover they don’t have your size.
Experiences like this could be a turn off for some consumers.
And it could one reason why buy online, pick up in store is working. Nearly three quarters of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said they’ve tried it.
So maybe it’s not that consumers are averse to going to a physical store. It’s just that they don’t want to end up endlessly wandering the aisles looking for the product they need.
In fact, 54 percent of respondents said they would like to be able to create a shopping list on a retailer app and then be presented with a map showing where those products are in the store.
Leverage apps in store
And consumers are already integrating apps into their shopping experience. More than 70 percent say they have one or more store apps, and of those respondents, 74 percent use them at least once a week. Of course that number goes up for millennials, with 86 percent being weekly users.
Eighty percent of those surveyed receive alerts about promotions and 39 percent say those types of notifications are all it would take to lure them into stores—if the communication were personalized to promote items they already wanted.
Forty-four percent shoppers would also like their apps—or an in-store screen—to provide detailed product information.
Make sales help helpful
Of course they could just ask a sales person, but the survey shows consumers are not interested in that option. Most (62 percent) want a tech tool that allows them to sidestep sales help all together.
Maybe that’s because, 83 percent of consumers now think they’re more up on product info than the sales clerks are, according to Tulip Retail’s consumer survey, which polled more than 1,000 consumers.
But shoppers don’t want to be the subject matter experts. They’d be happy to cede that title to the retail employees. Half of respondents say an informed clerk would encourage them to shop in store more often.
And there are apps for that. The survey found that mobile devices that provide clerks with product descriptions and allow them to ring up purchases and check stock levels allow for a better shopping experience. Seventy-two percent of shoppers who have been assisted by clerks with this technology enjoyed their shopping trip more.
“Bottom line, investing in store associates needs to be a high priority,” said Ali Asaria, CEO of Tulip Retail. “With the right tools, they can become beacons of knowledge, trusted advisors and drive sales.”