Touchy, Feely Stores Have The Edge

According to a new report by Astound Commerce, with the rise of digital commerce the role of the physical store has become unclear, and even obsolete in certain cases. However, stores are still important for shoppers: 73% of consumers visit stores to touch and feel products, says the report. Stores can still have an edge over ecommerce if done right when it comes to driving consumers to purchase.

Lauren Freedman, SVP of Digital Strategy of Astound Commerce, says “…the overwhelming narrative in retail today… the physical store is on the decline… selling on Amazon and investing in ecommerce… only way to be profitable”

The report, "Save Our Stores," combines the results of a 1,000 U.S. consumer survey with a mystery shopping analysis of 24 top retailers. To analyze the 24 retailers, which spanned eight categories, Astound Commerce Insights looked at 23 different metrics to assess retailers’ in-store strategy during the 2017 holiday season.

The study found that, from a consumer standpoint, a brick-and-mortar presence is still valuable for retailers who have planned their strategy to provide an engaging retail experience to stay afloat in the shifting tides toward digital. 

After analyzing both surveys, several key themes emerged, says the report. Retailers that best met customer expectations offered a mix of inspiring shopping experiences, valuable promotions, engaging customer service, and an efficient shopping experience. 

Stores Must Be Inspiring 

  • Apple, Nike, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, Crate and Barrel, and Gap received the highest “inspiring” scores when surveyed for a strong mix of digital signage, welcoming storefronts, and a focus on products. Additional tactics to drive customers in store over the holidays involve a mix of technology, gifting capabilities (67%) and themed areas (29%). Savvy retailers also integrate loyalty programs into the physical store checkout process. 41% of online shoppers purchase more from a particular retailer if they are a member or part of a rewards program.

Customer Service Is a Critical Differentiator 

  • Service is a key component of a brick and mortar strategy. Unfortunately, poor service can drive many shoppers away: 64% of consumers reported poor customer service as the top reason to leave a physical store. In the mystery shopping survey, shoppers were only greeted at 42% of stores upon arrival. 
  • However, certain stores offered a better customer service experience, with eleven stores achieving the top score. As an example of what made service “excellent,” Sephora had associates who offered samples of product to try at home before buying, and engaged with customers to discuss beauty tips and make suggestions.

Stores Gain Ground with Offerings Tied to Efficiency 

  • While ecommerce offers an unparalleled ease of experience, with purchases only clicks away, physical stores have made strides to speed up purchase and returns processes. The average time to checkout was only 2.21 minutes, and 21% of retailers offered mobile point-of-sale systems in hopes of expediting transactions. Similarly, retailers have improved the returns process, a source of frustration for consumers. The average time to return a product was 1.92 minutes, and several retailers offered a dedicated returns section to further improve this process.

Freedman concludes that “The role of the brick and mortar store has never been under more scrutiny, so it’s encouraging to see retailers employing a strategic mix of service, branding, efficiency and promotions to make the most out of the in-store experience. In 2018, retailers must ensure their stores have a clear purpose and inspire shoppers, otherwise they risk joining the more than 5,000 stores that closed in 2017.”

To view the complete report from AstoundCommerce, please visit here.



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