Data is never lacking when analysing the past, present, and future of retail. However, it must be emphasised that hasty conclusions as to the impending demise of brick and mortar retail shopping have yet to be borne out. According to eMarketer, by 2019, e-commerce will represent just about 9.8% of US retail sales. Statistics available from studies conducted in Australia also indicate that 69% of shoppers prefer in-store shopping to an online experience. Perhaps old habits die hard and according to a spokesperson of the US’ National Retail Federation, “As consumers continue to evolve the way they shop, retailers will pay attention and modify their strategies to align with the needs and wants of their customer base.”. How will retailers accomplish this objective? It has to be by “creating a better and more satisfying in-store experience.” says Marshal Cohen, a retail industry expert. Overall, available statistics point to the fact that shoppers are voting more for bricks than clicks, according to an online platform, GeoMarketing.
What is Retail Shopping Evolving Into?
It may be hard to capture an exact picture of retail the way it may look in the future. However, it is easy to peer into the next few years and project that hybrid stores are a likely destination. Shopping is mundane, so something extra must be woven in to compel shoppers to visit the stores and truly connect.
What are Hybrid Stores?
Think of an environment where you can actually feel at home, and the reason is not sentimental but the result of an emotional connection. It is a subtle yet powerful fusion of a retail store set in a homely environment. Airbnb seems to be the pioneer of this concept and retailers are fast buying into it. The driving force behind Airbnb’s model is the customers’ desire to have a familiar albeit different environment. So, rather than an impersonal and sterile hotel environment, hotel customers get to stay in home surroundings. How does this work for retail? Well, some stores are already providing similar environments for shoppers in-store to give them an emotional experience.
How Will this Work?
Literally, by engaging professionals to carry out retail refurbishment especially where the building is not constructed for retail purposes. Making a 360-degree turn in-store design takes astute professionalism supported by experience. The objective is to provide an ambience that online shopping experience cannot mimic.
Killing Two Bird With a Single Stone
By using retail refurbishment to radically change the internal ambience of the retail stores, businesses in the industry are not only meeting the needs of contemporary working class people, but they also connect with them on an emotional level. Early adopters of this model include the retail stores, quick service restaurants, and grocery stores.
Examples of Hybrid Stores
i. Hotel Style Stores: This very innovative concept has been adopted by a bedding and towel brand and incorporates a slightly vintage hotel room setting with all the trappings of a hotel room. Outfitted with the brand’s beddings and towels, beautifully designed to taste, customers have a literal experience of the products as they see, feel, smell, and perceive other qualities of the products.
ii. Restaurant Style Grocery: This hybrid variant of a grocery store has been tagged ‘grocerant’. Funny as that may sound, this model is working out very well for early adopters. The grocery is refurbished to accommodate the needs of busy shoppers who want to combine a quick, hot meal with doing their grocery shopping. The redesign also provides seating arrangements outdoor for people to seat and eat.
iii. Bar Style Art Gallery: Customers do not have to stare at artwork throughout their time at the gallery. Its combination with a bar setting ensures that they can sip beverages while perusing artwork or participating in art exhibitions. The entire gallery has been outfitted to provide subtle ambience, conducive for relaxation and appreciation of art.
It is quite clear that online activities are stimulating in-store purchases and the question is; “are retailers ready to maximize the benefits of this potential?” According to Nathalie Belanger, VP of Customer Engagement Solutions at Aptos, “…retailers must now adapt and position their physical stores within the continuum of the omni-channel experience. Stores must be equipped to serve not only as traditional product showcases but also as fulfillment centres, enterprise selling hubs, and points of online access”.
Marketing campaigns have the power to drive traffic through the door, but the experiential part will be done in-store. By leveraging retail refurbishing, brick and mortar retailers can creatively give shoppers the right ambiance in-store to stimulate a nostalgic experience.