Physical SpacesMay 5, 2021

What the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail Has in Store (Literally)

By BOBBY MARHAMAT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER‍

You might not know it from sky-is-falling prognosticators, but in-store retail continues to dominate online commerce.

 

Digital sales are increasing—there’s no doubt about it. However, e-commerce only accounts for 14% of all sales, showing that brick-and-mortar retail is still consumers’ preferred mode of shopping.

 

A further review of reliable data shows us that narratives of brick-and-mortar retail’s demise are mythical.

 

Per Raydiant’s State of Consumer Behavior 2021 Report, 46% of consumers still prefer shopping in person. They say that quality customer service, competitive prices, and a compelling in-store experience will prompt return shopping visits.

 

Much of Raydiant’s data indicates that, as consumers feel increasingly safe from COVID-19, an even greater share will return eagerly to brick-and-mortar outlets.

 

Don’t buy the hype. Brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay.

 

In-store shopping experiences—feeling and trying on items, experiencing the sights and sounds of a store, even carrying a bag of newly-purchased items to the car—are simply too valuable to dismiss.

 

That said, evolution remains essential.

 

Consumer expectations change. Shoppers demand convenience. They demand an Instagram-able experience. Smart in-store experience management responds to ever-shifting tastes.

 

Organizations must recognize and cater to evolving consumer desires in order to thrive.

 

As an organization, you must know:

 

  • The state of brick-and-mortar retail today
  • Which trends your organization must pay most attention to
  • The tangible steps for improving your consumers’ experiences

 

Organizations that approach these subjects head-on will provide unparalleled value through in-store experiences. They’ll lead the way into brick-and-mortar’s bright future.

 

The state of brick-and-mortar retail in 2021

 

If there is one word that defined brick-and-mortar retail in 2020, it’s “adaptation”.

 

Faced with a thoroughly freaked-out consumer base, brick-and-mortar retailers made the most of a tough hand. They offered curbside pickup and put safety measures in place for those who continued to shop in-store.

 

A 27% increase in mobile phone app downloads for brick-and-mortar retailers between Q1 and Q3 2020 indicates that customers are embracing brick-and-mortar’s necessary twists.

 

There are other reasons to be bullish on brick and mortar. 50% of our survey respondents said they’ll be shopping more frequently at brick-and-mortar locations once they’re vaccinated. That’s significant.

 

As 2021 unfolds, the state of brick-and-mortar retail is:

 

  • That in-store shopping is still, by far, the largest source of retail revenues
  • An industry primed for a cooped-up public’s return
  • As competitive as ever

 

We see differing realities for different organizations. Some retailers have closed their doors. Others are expanding. Some organizations are pivoting, re-orienting their mission to fit newfound consumer demands.

 

Organizations staying the course, pivoting, or expanding should note a few specific changes impacting brick-and-mortar retail. Embracing these changes is a must.

 

3 changes shaping retail

 

Change #1: Hyper-informed consumers

 

The Deloitte Consumer Review explains that consumers have more choices, and more information about those choices, than ever. Consumers may now come to your stores with more knowledge about your products than your own employees have.

 

Why this change matters: Consumers with preexisting knowledge of your products may come to your store for specific reasons—to see the product for themselves, hold it, and confirm that their prior research was accurate.

 

These consumers may tend to value an efficient, DIY-style shopping experience. Give them that experience with clear in-store directions, self-checkout, and other appropriate features.

 

Change #2: The rise of multi-channel brick and mortar

 

Consumers now interact with brick and mortar locations in a variety of ways. In-app purchasing, online purchasing, curbside pickup, store delivery, drive-thru pickup, and in-store pickup are signs of brick and mortar’s newfound versatility.

 

Why this change matters: With each new type of brick-and-mortar experience comes an opportunity to build brand loyalty. Accurate orders, quick fulfillment, a smooth in-app experience, and memorable customer service are all ways to maximize new brick-and-mortar channels

 

25% of survey respondents said they switch brands more often today than ever before. Maximizing loyalty at every customer touchpoint is critical.

 

Change #3: Advancements in data science and machine learning

 

Why this change matters: Machine learning is a major reason for the continued success of Amazon, eBay, and brick-and-mortar retailers that have forged success out of adversity. Online and in-app channels are ripe for the application of ML and AI.

 

Intelligent software can direct customers to products they are prone to like, and away from those they will not. This translates to a streamlined (i.e. positive) shopping experience and greater loyalty to the organization that provides the experience.

 

We believe the future of brick and mortar retail will be convenience-driven, but even more than that, it will be experience-driven.

 

The following are actionable steps that your organization can take to enhance customers’ in-store and store-adjacent experiences. The theme here: more intelligent, personalized in-store experience management.

 

Maximize the paths to purchase (and pickup)

 

You must not give customers a reason to shop elsewhere.

 

An easy-to-use app. An appealing online storefront. A variety of pickup options. Provide all of these (and more, as the retail landscape evolves), and you’ll appeal to the broadest possible consumer base.

 

Digitize your stores

 

Digitizing your stores promotes convenience, consumer education, and a better overall shopping experience.

 

Walmart embodies this ethos. In 2020, it began revamping 1,000 stores with digital signage that improves in-store navigation and encourages shoppers to download the Walmart app.

 

 

 

 

Self-checkout kiosks are another feature of Walmart’s digital overhaul. The digital rejuvenation is aimed at better customer experience and, as tends to follow, long-term loyalty.

 

 

Get more personal with your customers

 

The customer journey refers to the entirety of experiences that a customer has when interacting with your brand.

 

As the total number of customer-brand interactions explodes due to emerging channels, Deloitte notes that “the opportunity to tailor the journey to individual consumers can result in greater loyalty and customer retention”.

 

If you can increasingly personalize customer interactions (perhaps through investment in AI, employee training, and other means), you may see tangible benefits (return customers and increased sales included).

 


 

Bobby Marhamat

Bobby is the CEO of Raydiant, a digital signage provider that helps businesses turn their TVs into interactive signs that drive sales, improve the in-store experience, and reinforce brand messaging. Prior to joining Raydiant, Bobby served as the COO of Revel Systems where he worked on the front lines with over 25,000 brick and mortar retailers.

Bobby has held leadership positions including CEO, CRO, and VP of Sales at companies such as Highfive, Limos.com, EVO2, Verizon Wireless, LookSmart, ServerPlex Networks, and Sprint/Nextel. When Bobby’s not spending his time thinking about the future of brick and mortar retail, you can find him traveling, reading, or tending to his vegetable garden.