The Retail Experience Still Matters...Maybe Now More Than Ever

The focus of most marketing executives across the globe is on the digitalization of society--everything going digital, mobile and social. This is no different for healthcare and wellness marketers. We live in a world where consumers are connected, engaged, mobile and constantly moving between their offline and online worlds. Digital, of course, is an essential part of the marketing puzzle. But an interesting thing is happening on our journey to all-things-digital: innovation, particularly as mobile frees us to roam, is allowing consumers to experience retail in a new and engaging manner. Retail still matters. Digital hasn’t stopped retail; it’s enhancing the in-store experience. 

A 2012 study by Latitude found 65% of shopper’s research products online and then make a purchase in-store.  An August report from Concentric Marketing reveals that Millennials, although adept at digital, still prefer a traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience over e-commerce for the majority of their regular purchases. When asked the type of store they prefer to shop the most, nearly 60% cited the traditional grocery store and mass merchants such as Target and Walmart.  Consider a few more stats:

  • In the previously mentioned Latitude report, seventy-nine percent of participants were interested in having digital content delivered to their mobile phones while in-store.



This is all good news for retail marketers, especially healthcare and wellness brand marketers. Consumers are not only frequenting the stores where your products are shelved or on display but they want to be digitally engaged while in-store.   Here’s some more good news for healthcare brands: According to a 2012 Booz & Company study, 78% of shoppers report interest in health and wellness while in-store; and more than 40% of consumers feel that health and wellness products are “worth spending a little more on”.

David Sable, global CEO at Y&R, summed it up well in a recent interview in MediaPost’s Agency Daily: “People thought 10 years ago we’d live in caves – there’d be the death of retail stores and movie theaters. The reality is innovations like mobile are helping with the explosion of retail stores all over the world.”

So why is it that in today’s digital world, which provides so much choice and convenience, are we seeing a renewed focus on retail? Perhaps it’s that nothing can replace the real experience of shopping—actually seeing, touching, engaging with the desired item—not to mention the instant gratification of a real-world purchase. 

Fast Company article, citing a research study, reminded us of a truth backed by science and data: “Immersive, real-world experiences create more permanent memories than merely digital ones.”

And so we are seeing stores rethinking the retail experience to better engage and provide value to consumers. We are also witnessing traditional ecommerce companies building brick-and-mortar presences. Earlier this year, Google was reported to be planning retail stores, ala Apple.  Polaroid is taking advantage of retail opportunities by opening Fotobars to help consumers bring their digital pictures to real, hardcopy life. Samsung is opening Samsung Experience Shops within Best Buy, allowing consumers the opportunity test, learn and engage with products before purchase.  Etailer has opened a retail presence. And greek yogurt maker Chobani has opened a store in New York City. These are only a handful of many examples.   

Retail offers the perfect arena to blend the digital and real worlds. Whether that’s interacting with consumers on the increasingly important and always-on device—the smartphone—or providing unique in-store interactive digital displays and kiosks, the goal is to deliver more value and information to help drive brand awareness, loyalty and sales. For health and wellness marketers, this means really understanding your consumer and delivering them the services, products and information that will provide valuable, engaging experiences. 

Overall, marketers today should really view the consumer experience through an “omnichannel” lense. Consumers don’t think about shopping in ‘channels’ they view shopping as a seamless connection with your brand—either in-store, online, mobile or social. Think of your retail experience as a way to enhance, promote and extend the value of your brand.

Businesses today absolutely should be embracing the latest technologies but with an eye towards the consumer experience. For retailers, the question should be what do you offer your consumers to make their experience—both “offline” and “online”—more convenient and valuable and that will keep them coming into your store?

Just look around – everywhere you’ll see marketers offering benefits for consumers: Healthcare providers are offering discounts for health and wellness lifestyle choices; pharmacy retailers are engaging with consumers via digital, interactive kiosks; and retailers across the U.S. are leveraging mobile technologies to deliver personalized content while shopping in-store.  

And why is it important? Because consumers share and recommend products, brands and experiences now more than ever. Influence matters. A Nielsen study shows than almost 90% of purchases are made from peer or family recommendations. 

Retailers and healthcare marketers need to create an in-store experience that is customer-centric, beneficial, valuable and rooted in today’s technologies. Rethink your in-store presence today—whether you are the actual retailer, brand on the shelf, or strategic partner. Put yourself in your consumer’s shoes to understand the services, engagement and value they want. Consumers are still frequenting retail… just give them plenty of reasons to keep coming back. 

1 comment about "The Retail Experience Still Matters...Maybe Now More Than Ever".
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  1. Dorothy Wetzel from Extrovertic, September 3, 2013 at 1:30 p.m.

    Retail is a totally underused channel in health care, particularly in pharmaceutical marketing. Consider how traditional health insurers are opening stores. For example, Florida Blue has 11 retail outlets where people can sign up for health insurance and get their blood pressure checked. You don't have to have a lot to sell—the early Apple stores seemed virtually empty. It was the experience that counted.

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