We’re in the midst of a Retail Revolution. Today’s consumers–who are almost always within arm’s reach of their smartphones–have access to more information than ever before about the products they buy. And thanks to the exponential growth of online shopping, brands are no longer limited to traditional business hours. So…why are some big brick-and-mortar brands still thriving with the convenience of ecommerce luring shoppers online? It all comes down to striking a healthy balance between the convenience of online shopping, with the customer experience of in-store shopping. One brand who’s nailing it? Nordstrom!
The “Reserve Online & Try In Store” Program
Let’s face it, customers are already using their mobile phone to research and shop online while in-store. So, delivering a mobile-centric, in-store experience will help brands evolve with their customers’ habits and expectations. It will provide a simpler, more continual customer journey to customers while brands see increased in-store sales and gather all-important customer insights. A great example of a big-name retail brand doing this? Nordstrom! Their “Reserve Online & Try In Store” program allows shoppers to pick out their clothes using the Nordstrom app, locate their nearest Nordstrom brick-and-mortar location, and pick a time to go try on their clothes. Geolocation alerts store employees when the shopper is close, which prompts them to pull the clothes the shopper chose online and put them in a dressing room. Then, when the shopper arrives, they get an automatic text alert with their dressing room location details. This entire process takes advantage of shoppers’ want to try on things before they buy, but streamlines the process to make the entire experience more mobile-centric and accessible. And according to the retail giant, it’s an effort that has paid off, with 80 percent of customers becoming repeat-users of the service.
Trends Shaping the Retail Landscape
Nordstrom’s success with this program proves out a couple of big shifts happening in consumer behavior:
- Online Shopping Has Changed Buyer Expectations and Behavior
Online shopping not only makes shopping easier, it fundamentally shifts buyers’ expectations and behaviors. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assume that when I mentioned online shopping, the first thing that came to mind was Amazon. And rightfully so! Amazon has transformed online shopping. Just think about this: Between 2010 and 2017, Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion. Let’s compare that to used-to-be superstore Sears, which had a revenue of $22 billion last year.
But, there’s something bigger at play than the Amazon effect. Shoppers have become accustomed to the ease, speed, and reliability of online shopping. So much so, they have come to expect a similar experience in-store, and only those brands that can deliver an “online” experience in-store will truly pass the test of time.
- Experience Is More Important Than Product
A brand’s product is no longer the reason shoppers come to the store. They can just as easily buy the same or similar product online. They come to the store for service and expertise. To get customers in stores and ensure that your product stands out in the aisle, the in-store experience has to be one they can’t get anywhere else. Many brands have turned to omni-channel shopping experience to answer consumers’ in-store shopping expectations. Crate and Barrel’s “Mobile Tote” stands out an a great example of a brand using mobile technology in stores to reimagine how their customer shop and interact with the brand.
So, don’t let the recent Toys R Us debacle set the entire scene for you–this is not the end of brick-and mortar…but it just may be the end of brick-and-mortar as we know it. The ever-changing landscape highlights the need for brands to evolve with their customers’ expectations and behaviors, or run the risk of being left behind.