New Retail Realities: Why Do People Still Shop At Stores?


Ecommerce is still gaining. Yet there's evidence that people are tiring of it, too, with foot traffic rising at brick-and-mortar stores.

That means people in retail design are constantly asking themselves this question: In an age when you can buy anything online, what are people looking for when they go to a physical store?

President of TracyLocke agency Tina Manikas, with a long track record in retail, has some answers.

Marketing Daily: Let's start with why experiential retail is so important right now.

Tina Manikas: It's driven by this overall shift toward ecommerce, especially in the last 18 months. There's been a big improvement in how useful technology is. The tech is better, and people are more open to embracing it. And that's driving expectations. We now expect all the convenience of online shopping in our offline shopping trips.



Marketing Daily:  Ecommerce will always win on speed, as well as selection. So what can stores do to compete?

Manikas: There's plenty. Stores can be more exciting and entertaining. They can be more inspiring and educational. Experiential retail has now risen to a higher level because stores are being redefined. And it's especially important now because, after so many months of shopping less, there is a pent-up demand for new experiences.

Marketing Daily: Also, at its best, ecommerce comes down to a few clicks -- and that's boring. That's especially true when I can buy the same sneaker from a dozen websites, including Nike. How can retailers use physical stores to sharpen the science of their own branding?

Manikas: For some retailers, the store and the brand are the same things, like Apple or Ralph Lauren. But many retailers sell many different brands, often even store brands. So it comes down to not just the sale of a product, but a product and a service.

The question is how that product and service combine to strengthen what's unique about both brands. Besides just selling me the sneaker, how can that retailer teach me something about that particular shoe in a different way from other stores? How are you helping me make my decision?

Another experience element is personalization: What can you offer me to customize my purchase? Play into my areas of affinity?

That's what makes in-store experiences potentially more interesting, getting people away from that simple "Click here, click here, check out" aspect of online shopping.

Marketing Daily: We've seen a lot of underperforming stores close. But we’ve also see many open. Levi's is opening 100 new stores this year, and Warby Parker is expanding. Many previously all-digital brands are also opening more stores, like Allbirds.

Manikas: Yes, everyone put store plans on hold at the start of the pandemic. There was so much uncertainty. Now they're going ahead with openings -- although cautiously -- for several reasons. One is for experimentation. Another is paying attention to the community. There is a resurgence of people caring about where they live, about staying local.

[Retailers are] also using these stores to explore ecommerce connectivity within store formats. It also makes sense to help fend off the impact of aggregators. If I buy a product online through a retailer, but Instacart delivers it, which brand will have the biggest impact on me?

And those D2C retailers are opening live locations to differentiate themselves from digital competitors and raise awareness in different target audiences or geography.

Everybody's fighting for attention. You can win the battle for attention, and drive that back to the brand with compelling commerce.

Marketing Daily: What are some other ways to make shopping feel different?

Manikas: Social commerce. It's starting to serve as a bridge that provides both inspiration experience and immediate ways to buy.

Marketing Daily: What stores do you think are doing this well? Where do you like to shop?

Manikas: I love Nordstrom. It's had the jump on everyone by combining and turbocharging service with products. So not only does it curate something new, but it's got that service mentality, both on and offline.

I also like the rise of Restoration Hardware. You can design things online quickly, and it also sells high-end furniture. And I think what's happening in the resale market is interesting, especially in the physical locations of The RealReal, which resells designer clothing.

Marketing Daily: What's your best advice to companies considering going into physical retail?

Manikas: Know what you're trying to sell and what your purpose is. Experiment online first, and test interest. Then move into pop-up stores before investing in a physical location. That way, you can fine-tune your brand before investing in physical spaces.

2 comments about "New Retail Realities: Why Do People Still Shop At Stores?".
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  1. Doris Ganser from Transimpex Translators-Interpreters-Editors-Consultans, Inc., January 31, 2022 at 6:12 p.m.

    I used to shop in clothing stores (incl. stores like Macy's). Salesgirls(ladies?) would tell me thing like: "If you'll just lose a little weight, this will fit you just fine." I am an in-between size, top 14-16, bottoms 16-18-20. So, even with just catalogs, I'd order from them and order 2 or 3 sizes so that I could return 1 or 2 (or all 3) sizes. Initially, I loved ordering online but it has not become any easier to handle the purchase. Also, stores like Mac's used to have a seamstress and one could leave the purchased item to be shortened, lengthened, etc. I found a seamstress after starting to order online but she is no longer available. Others want as much or close to as much for an alternation as I paid for the entire garment. And sizes are no longer reliable. Ergo: 1. brick-and-mortar stores would gain customers if they were to make sizes fit by having a seamstress. 2. Manufacturers (especially those in China) would facilitare things for stores by providing more reliable sizes; stores could exert pressure on their Chinese manufacturers, even if they were to increase their prices somewhat in return. Much of even the best stores' goods are made in China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. even when the intermediaries attach the store labels. 3. Clothing stores can help by having more sizes available in in between sizes. 4. Stores can assist by having better-trained and more polite staff. 

  2. Colleen Fahey from private, February 1, 2022 at 7:19 a.m.

    Online is the place to go if I know what I want, a store is the place I go to discover what I want. It could be scallops, a book by a Japanese author or, these days, a little 3-beat conversation. Fresh ideas and a friendly chat would do the trick for me.

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