OK so we’ve heard all about how the metaverse is going to revolutionise our lives, giving us NFTs and as many avatars as we could possibly wish for, not to mention multiple identities with which to cover our tracks, so it was with some relief that today we got back to basics.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as I discussed with my retail influencer colleagues whilst at Shoptalk, the future is extremely exciting for the retail industry and of course digital and its ultimate incarnation are cause for great optimism.
But until we arrive at that place, there are some fundamentals we need to consider and that means consumer behaviour and the role of stores.
And in a panel session it was my fellow RETHINK Retail influencer, Hitha Herzog who said that consumers want more access and that adding more channels adds to the shopping experience. Adding however a challenge for retailers in that it is up to them to figure out how to target each individual consumer.
If you put the customer at the centre it’s not about e-commerce versus stores, customers don’t shop in channels, they simply shop”Wendy Liebmann CEO WSL
The discussion moved on to convenience and what shoppers are seeking, whether it be contactless payments, grab and go technology or easy checkout, and this threw up a really interesting question: can shopping ever become too convenient?
This point was echoed by Target who, quite apart from the startling statistic they shared that 95% of all e-commerce orders are fulfilled from stores, shared that to ease the customer experience, they are opening drive through returns hubs where customers can take their return items without having to leave their car. But is this taking customer experience and convenience a step too far? After all, for the sake of the planet, shouldn’t we make returns as difficult as possible?
Back to stores and some great insights from Antonio Nieves, CEO of Interior Define who refer to their stores as studios. Oh, and they don’t carry any inventory. And it was this different perspective on the purpose of stores which was acknowledged by Macy’s chief store officer, Marc Mastronardi who said that they are looking at all their stores through the eyes of the consumer.
Do they shop them? Use them as fulfilment hubs? Or use them primarily to browse and purchase online? Whatever the answer, it serves to demonstrate that stores remain and will always remain a crucial and central part of retail businesses (pure play aside). The emerging challenge however is digitising them whilst retaining the human connection.
And this effectiveness of stores was underlined by Interior Define who said that when they open a physical space, conversion rates go up 2/3%.
Perhaps another example of the store effect came from Andie CEO Melanie Travis. Andie is a relatively new swimwear retailer who began online and are now opening stores. I spoke to Melanie who told me that whilst online orders consist mainly of black outfits being ordered, in store it is all about colour.
The message from Shoptalk today was that whilst we all love to shop online, we love to shop in store even more. The store is dead, long live the store.