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The Future of Retail: The Reinvention of Brick-and-Mortar

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The ubiquitous rise of online shopping is directly connected to the decline of brick-and-mortar. The past few years have been marked by reports of fallen stores that once benefited from growing profits—Macy’s, Sears, and Kmart.

But with online shopping giants, like Amazon, making moves to acquire physical spaces, there is strong indication that brick-and-mortar may not be dying but in a period of renaissance. Outlined below are 3 key ways that retailers can upgrade their spaces to provide higher value and innovate for the future.

Readjust the value of in-store shopping

With easy-to-use comparison tools, user reviews, and an abundance of online information, fewer customers are going to stores to impulse buy and browse. This means that brick-and-mortar must provide value to the in-store shopper that goes beyond simply providing goods.

Nordstrom, Sephora, and Warby Parker have all retrofitted and realigned their stores to provide a higher-end experience equipped with associates who specialize in their products. Rather than trying to compete with e-commerce giants, retailers should focus efforts on fast fulfillment and delivering a superior customer experience to drive loyalty.

In-store shoppers convert at rates nearly 10X higher than online shoppers, and online-only retailers that open stores are reporting 5-8 times increase in sales. Physical stores, while in a process of change, still hold a strong influence over buyers.

Focusing on the supply chain

Brick-and-mortar has vital areas in which e-commerce cannot yet compete—proximity being a key differentiator. While Amazon touts same day delivery, it has yet to deliver a service that beats the convenience of going to the store and picking up a product.

Physical stores should be retrofitted as distribution hubs. And to achieve greater scale, efforts should be focused on how both digital and physical spaces can enhance and support one another.

While automation and AI can provide a superior customer experience, they cannot replace the human touch. Apple’s in-store experience is proof of this. When support is needed, customers still prefer speaking and interacting with an expert versus a bot. This is a great area where retailers can use their digital space to help customers scope out and find products, and their physical locations to provide added personal support.

Technology that empowers the buyer’s journey. 

With the flood of new technologies consistently influencing buyers, digital and in-store efforts must be more closely aligned. Customer experience, bar none, remains the strongest predictor of how well a company will outperform its competition. So, ensuring that every touch point in the customer’s journey is accounted for and understood under one holistic plan should be an imperative brand initiative.

The advent of the internet means knowledge is more widespread and readily available. Retailers must be cognizant that the shopper is more informed and armed with options. Rather than view this as a crutch, retailers can take advantage of digital touch points to re-adjust the in-store value.

Key Takeaway

Investing heavily in R&D efforts is the only true way of capturing the empowered buyer. Our clients have used online communities to gauge customer sentiment on everything from store layouts, marketing content, mobile checkout, and holographic assistants. The only true way to design the stores of the future is through the voice of the customer.

For more information, check out our latest white paper: The Future of Retail: Reinventing the In-Store Experience 

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