7 advantages of brick-and-mortar stores in the post pandemic era.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores have been given the green light to reopen in England on April 12th; and further good news comes from Sharecast which predicts footfall to rise 47.9% upon reopening. Now seems to be the perfect time to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience in order to reengage your old customers and attract new ones.

73% of today’s UK consumers use multiple channels to fulfil their shopping needs, whether it be to seek inspiration, evaluate products/services, or place orders. While online sales reached yet another record of 167% in February 2021, brick-and-mortar stores suffered financial losses throughout the pandemic.

However, that doesn’t mean the high street is dead!

Here are 7 advantages of brick-and-mortar stores in the post pandemic era:

1) Immersive experience:

Brick-and-mortar stores carry the unique ability to stimulate all 5 human senses. Stores have succeeded in selling an emotion through the use of colours, lighting, music, scent etc; and more recently with playful AR technology, interactive showrooms, and more. By selling emotions rather than products, you can create deep and meaningful connections with their consumers who will be more passionate, engaged and loyal.

This level of connection is near impossible to achieve in the digital space since such immersive experience cannot be replicated online.

2) Social:

Having been in and out of lockdown for a year, UK consumers are desperate for social interaction and experiences. Shopping malls, outlets, and highstreets have previously brought people together for shared experiences and it can continue to do post pandemic.

You should note however, 90% of UK shoppers say they plan to do the majority of their shopping online even when physical shops reopen. This means a lot of consumers will use physical stores as fulfilment centres in the future, mostly to interact with products and get the brand experience. Retail spaces will thrive if they can create an immersive experience for consumers.

3) Visibility:

There is no denying how difficult it can be to be seen in the infinite online space. The high street on the other hand has limited space, especially in key locations such London’s Oxford Street, which helps a brand’s visibility and footfall.

Lack of trust is another issue online-only retailers often face. According to HubSpot, 55% consumers don’t trust companies they previously purchased from and 65% don’t trust advertisements. One way to give your consumers a sense of security is by being physically available to guide them through purchases and solve any problems.

4) Sales advice:

Some consumers prefer to do their own research while others seek expert advice from sales associates. When doing research online, consumers often become overwhelmed by the wealth of information available and confused by the differing opinions.

82% consumers deem immediate response from brands “important” or “very important” when seeking help. Enter sales associates with expert knowledge on the product, brand, and competitors; they also have the skills and knowledge to move customers along the buying journey.

In-store browsers are more likely to purchase something on impulse. The credit for this should be given to marketing as well as sales associates who create connections with consumers. Since excellent customer service is difficult to provide online, sales associates are a unique asset to brick-and-mortar stores and key in building brand loyalty.

5) Discovery:

The large volume of products online is a pull for shoppers who know exactly what they want. For consumers looking for inspiration however, online shopping can be exhausting and cause decision paralysis. Brick-and-mortar stores are the solution here. Displays and sales assistance, along with the ability to interact with products in-person, will help consumers move closer towards purchasing.

6) Product testing:

KPMG’s research found conversion increase when consumers are able to test the products. This means, online retailers are not only dealing with higher returns, they’re also missing out on sales because consumers are unable to physically interact with products before making a purchase.

Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley discussed the importance of purposeful stores with Forbes and KPMG’s retail survey of 2020 says, “… it’s more important than ever to invest in innovations that could transform the customer experience, no matter how costly …”.

Customers of brands such as Samsung, JD Sports, Ikea have been inspired by their in-store product showcases. It’s apparent that post pandemic consumers demand showrooms which allow them to freely interact with products without sales pressure.

7)Data:

Fulfilling your customers’ demands start with data. Fortunately, analytics tools are available for both online and brick-and-mortar stores. You can learn about footfall, time spent, popular routes, queue times, heat maps of popular areas etc. This information equips you for success when making strategic decisions, optimising marketing, merchandising and more.

The added benefit of data collection in store is that you’re able to promote new products and see how consumers interact with them. Matt Kaness, CEO at ModCloth is a big advocate as he says retailers can learn much about their customers just by watching them shop, interacting with the space and products”

In summary, brick-and-mortar stores can create authentic and human connections with consumers and provide experiences in ways that online stores cannot. Online and brick-and-mortar stores are equally as important in the buyers’ journey and both must work in tandem to create a strong brand.

According to the American brand Target’s data, omnichannel consumer can spent up to 10 times more than an online only consumer; and physical stores help bring traffic to online stores.

Retailers’ willingness to adapt to the new role of brick-and-mortar stores will determined whether they recover from the pandemic or not.

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