The last decade has seen a major shift in how we do our shopping. Blockbuster Video was arguably the best example case of a high profile business not keeping up to date with shifts in consumer behaviour – it went from being the most recognised video rental store with thousands of international outlets to a bad joke, completely destroyed by online alternatives that could offer better services at better prices.
The internet, and by extension the growth of online shopping has long been suggested to overtake traditional retail, sounding the death knell for our old brick and mortar shops. A bold claim indeed, but one only has to look at the growth of companies like Amazon to see how we are all getting a serious addiction to buying online.
However, the latest research from eMarketer suggests that there’s still a long way to go before the harbinger of doom takes away retail shops as we saw with Blockbuster – instead it is suggested that 85% of consumers go to the store in order to ‘touch and feel things’ to aid their purchase decision. A similar statistic indicated that 71% of people questioned would rather shop in Amazon’s physical store than through Amazon.com.
This indicates that consumers are utilising the web to discover and research products online before heading into a typical shop to make the final purchase decision.
So how can retailers make sure that they stay relevant in the face of this change in consumer behaviour? By simply integrating the digital experience into their traditional stores, retailers can encourage our modern shopper to continue that online experience seamlessly when they walk through the door. This can be achieved using the ideas such as new technology like in-store tablet installations, greater synergy between the offline and online experience and consistent brand building.
IKEA, the Swedish furniture chain has recently announced plans to revamp their strategy. UK & Ireland boss Gillian Drakeford acknowledged that “the retailer needs to meet the market in a different way”. Their plan of action for this goal is to launch a new type of Order and Collection Point small format store that helps to bridge the gap between online and traditional retail.
A step in the right direction it seems for IKEA who saw nearly 1.5 billion visitors to its website last year compared to 716 million visitors to physical stores. Drakeford added that “IKEA needs to merge its traditional market offer of stores with new touch points and its online offering, which is growing at around 30% per year”.
What is the future of retail?
Like IKEA, touch points that can offer information, access to online shopping and other benefits are being widely implemented across a number of businesses, particularly in the UK where savvy shoppers are some of the leaders in multichannel buying experiences.
Interactive kiosks offering self service, tablets able to access your personal shopping history in-store and digital displays showcasing advertising with rich media are all considered to be large parts of the future of retail. The challenge lies in effective implementation, secure solutions for mounting the latest hardware in public environments and detailed understanding of security to protect personal and company data.
Traditional retail isn’t going anywhere just yet. There is growth in both online and in-store purchases expected for a number of years to come, but in order for traditional retail companies to compete with the power of an online store, changes do need to made to keep consumers interested. The first step for this is bridging that gap between online and offline – tablet devices such as Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab installed in retail outlets are able to keep the consumer excited by offering new ways to interact with the brand and products.