Despite the rise of e-commerce, brick and mortar stores are going nowhere
By Alfredo PérezGeneral
From food to electronics, all the way to clothing, DIY and furniture: the digitization of shopping is now a reality, thanks to the fact that most of our lives have been moved onto smartphones. This is something that has accelerated considerably in recent years and has found a natural catalyst and a new means of connecting with consumers in technology.
Following the relaxation of social distancing measures, the brick and mortar store is reluctant to lose its supremacy. This is due to the agility shown by the main players in physical commerce, and the determined commitment to an omnichannel experience that includes the digitization of the customer journey.
In just a few years, retailers have evolved and reinvented themselves to offer their customers an integrated experience that cannot be compared to the “pre-COVID world”.
Mobile is the gateway to the physical store
Six out of ten customers shop in the physical store, yet 93% of consumers search for their products online before making a purchase*. So how should retailers evolve to adapt to this digital consumer?
According to Alfredo Pérez, International Business Manager for Tiendeo, a platform specializing in drive-to-store solutions and digital catalogues, it is important to follow these two trends. “First, the digital consumer wants full access, from the sofa at home or anywhere else, to all the information available: prices, products, availability, services, the ability to chat with an advisor, make an appointment, etc. The physical store must guarantee this shopping experience, otherwise the possibility of influencing consumers’ decisions and consequently sales may be lost”.
“Second, once the consumer is at the point of sale, they want a completely frictionless experience: you need to avoid long waits, excessive checkout queues, and offer shopping alternatives so that the customer is empowered and makes the best purchase decision using the smartphone as a core element in their decision-making process”, adds Alfredo.
A space with immersive brand experiences
Despite the digital revolution, visiting the physical store is still an experience that allows consumers to connect with store staff: advisors who help them choose what type of garment might suit them best or the most suitable food products for their diet. Thus, physical retail is moving from the transactional, where only buying and selling takes place, to a space of connection between the consumer, the brand, and its community, with a clear socializing role.
“No one can take away all the strengths of the store. At the end of the day, we are individuals looking to engage with other people looking for excitement, but with digital shopping the consumer has learned to utilize the best of both worlds to create a seamless and enhanced shopping experience”, Alfredo remarks.
“The physical store has to adapt to these emerging trends by adding technology as a pivotal element in its communication strategy with the consumer. The mistake would be to think that they are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are complementary, since the union of both generates omnichannel and unique shopping experiences, which open the doors to a more innovative and competitive future“, argues Pérez.
Despite what it may seem, physical commerce will not disappear, but will have to reinvent itself and adapt to the phygital concept, a fusion of the physical and the digital. ‘Phygital’ is a term that has emerged in response to changes in the physical store and consumer demands. In short, it is a process of transformation of physical points of sale that include new technologies in their sales processes.
In this post-Covid world, phygital is a real opportunity for physical stores to recover. It stimulates the customer’s senses and immerses them in a fluid environment in which shopping is facilitated. As a result, the customer experience is enhanced, and brand loyalty is increased.
Investing in technology for better integration
Incorporating phygital means reinventing the store model, using digital technologies such as local advertising campaigns to attract customers to the point of sale.
In addition, the use of digital technologies enhances the image of the brand or the physical store, offering new high value-added services for the consumer such as: accessing product information, checking product availability, finding out prices from a barcode or even checking loyalty points.
In the post-Covid environment, it should be noted that customers are less and less willing to spend time searching for items in-store. Thanks to digital devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs, and even TVs), purchasing any item is easier than ever.
As a result, consumers can choose the product they want, and decide on the pick-up method, either by going directly to the physical point of sale, receiving it at home or reserving and paying for it at the point of sale itself. Different delivery methods increase the consumer’s flexibility when it comes to collecting and paying for their purchase.
Another example is the interactive catalogues that attract the consumer’s attention with their promotions on any type of device, with the aim of creating a fully unified experience, integrating immediacy with the experience at the point of travel through the Customer Journey. An engaging, personalized, and even immersive experience where interaction plays a key role.
The retail sector is amidst of a major transformation process. It is no longer just a matter of trying to integrate the digital world into the real world, but of reshaping the real world in the image of the digital world, adopting its codes, languages, and logics, with the aim of creating integrated experiences that combine the best of both worlds.
Traditional physical stores must learn to combine their business with the unlimited possibilities of the digital world to generate unique, personalized, and frictionless experiences during the consumer’s shopping process.
Alfredo Pérez is the International Business Manager at Tiendeo.