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Why Stores Matter: 65% Spend More Online After Positive Brick-and-Mortar Experience

Brick-and-mortar stores still have a long way to go if they want to bounce back from the impacts of the Covid-19, but as it turns out, they will still be a key to getting shoppers to buy more across channels. Sixty-one percent of consumers say they are likely to spend more at a store after have a great experience, while 65 percent claim their good feelings about trip to brick and mortar will boost online outlay with that brand, according to a consumer behavior survey from digital signage company Raydiant.

Despite the present safety concerns that shoppers may have still have about in-store shopping, alongside the potential for more Covid-19-related store closures, given the choice, 46 percent of shoppers prefer to shop in person rather than online, the survey said. Understandably, this is a nine-percentage-point decline from last year, but it shows that there is still a sizable chunk of shoppers who retailers can learn from.

According to the State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report, those who prefer in-store experiences over online most value three characteristics: the ability to view, touch, and interact with physical products (33 percent); the overall experience that a physical location provides (26 percent); and the immediacy that in-location experiences offer, as opposed to waiting for delivery (14 percent). Nine percent prefer shopping in store to avoid high shipping costs.

Shoppers told Raydiant that the top hallmark of a positive store experience revolves around whether the product they’re looking for is available and the breadth of merchandise that’s offered (33 percent). Another 31 percent point to the quality of service from store staff, while 14 percent care about the store layout and how merchandise is organized.

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However, 40 percent of the 1,000 U.S. consumers surveyed said Covid-19 has driven a significant decline in their store visits. Another 28 percent of respondents have cut back their in-location visits to a minor degree, while only 19 percent have not really changed their brick-and-mortar shopping habits at all.

One group, which comprises 13 percent of respondents, said they are shopping in stores much more frequently now versus before Covid-19. This category may speak to the desire for in-person experiences in a climate where social connection is increasingly restrained by the pandemic.

Even with touch and feel playing a critical role in the overall shopping experience, apparel and footwear aren’t drawing people in stores. Only 33 percent of consumers said they were highly likely to shop for these categories in stores, only ahead of electronics across nine retail and consumer categories available. And in the case of electronics, more are turning to online options anyway, highlighting the problems facing size-dependent clothing and shoes.

On a positive note, in the next 12 months, more consumers see themselves going back to brick and mortar for apparel and footwear purchases, with 49 percent expecting to visit a store.

While the world awaits mass deployment of Covid-19 vaccines, retailers can’t assume a medical weapon against the coronavirus will be a panacea. Half of U.S. consumers said that they would visit physical locations more often post-vaccine, but 28 percent of respondents would not. Twenty-two percent remain uncertain.

Throughout the pandemic, it seems retailers have done a good job in at least maintaining in-store customer service quality in the eyes of the shopper—53 percent of respondents say they have not noticed a change in customer service quality over the past 12 months, and 30 percent said customer service has gotten better in the past year. Not everyone is this positive about the store experience, with 17 percent saying customer service has gotten worse.

Whether it’s the experience provided in stores, the feel of the products offered or the quality of customer service, high proficiency in all these factors is necessary to keep consumers coming back. But as the Raydiant survey shows, more shoppers switched their allegiance to online brands when they couldn’t shop at their favorite stores early in the pandemic.

When taking outright store closures and temporary lockdowns into consideration, it shouldn’t be any surprise that 49 percent of shoppers say they replaced products they previously purchased regularly at physical stores with online alternatives. This percentage slightly outpaces the 45 percent who haven’t swapped regular in-store product purchases with options available through e-commerce.

When asked what businesses can do to win back loyalty, customers were up front about saving money above all else, with 31 percent saying they should offer store-exclusive discounts. Beyond that, the remaining suggestions were split nearly four ways, with 15 percent expecting clear health and safety protocols and 14 percent wanting retailers to offer exclusive products not available online, offer a worthwhile experience unique to the store and offer better customer service.

2020 may have brought drastic changes to customer behavior, but 2021 may actually bring more of the same if shoppers follow their own expectations. As many as 44 percent of shoppers anticipate frequenting physical locations about the same amount in 2021 as they did last year.

A quarter of respondents expect to have more store experiences, while 16 percent anticipate fewer store trips, suggesting that shoppers are still tilting toward going back in the store once everyone gets a cleaner bill of health.