How Retailers Can Provide The Best Possible Shopping Experience
Who would have guessed that in-store shopping would be thriving the way it is today? Over the last two years, most of us got comfortable shopping for items – the necessities and nice-to-haves – online. According to McKinsey & Company, ecommerce grew three times faster in 2020 yet less than two years later, people are stepping away from the computer and venturing out to the stores go shopping.
That said, if you’ve visited any of your favorite retailers over the last 12 months, you’ve probably noticed that in-store shopping looks different than it did a mere two years ago. “Retail is reinventing itself in part due to the pandemic, but also due to what customers want,” Ryan Van Sluyters, Key Account Manager at VIRA Insight said. “And while customers’ habits have changed, they still want a positive overall experience.” In response, retailers understand it’s not business as usual and are implementing changes to keep their customers happy and engaged.
Van Sluyters and his team have seen the following trends emerge as retailers respond to what their customers want:
1. Frictionless Shopping
The concept of buying online and picking up in the store, often referred to as BOPIS, is a preferred way of shopping for many these days, particularly among the younger, more tech-savvy generations.
“Consumers don’t necessarily want to speak with anyone to complete a transaction if they don’t have to. Rather, they want a frictionless shopping experience where they get in, get their product and get out,” Van Sluyters said.
To help facilitate this, many retailers have implemented Dark Stores for order fulfillment in one of three ways: for curbside pickup with a reserved area in the parking lot for these orders; for in-store pickup with a dedicated area inside the store; and for home delivery. Dark Stores contribute to a frictionless shopping experience, as well as provide other benefits for retailers and consumers, including fast and efficient distribution of products, better inventory control management, enhanced SKU management and the ability to stock a wider range of products.
2. Stores Within a Store
Stores within a store are an emerging trend with big retailers today. They are attractive because they help the host store attract more foot-traffic, and they open the potential for new relationships between brands. One example is Lovesac, which piloted a pop-up store within Best Buy two years ago and has since steadily opened several throughout the country. It’s a relationship that makes sense; people need a comfortable place to sit while watching their new TV or surfing the web on their new laptop they purchased.
Target also understands the benefit of leveraging other brands to increase foot traffic and thus, partnered with and opened Ulta Beauty mini stores in many of its stores across the country, and now Sephora has begun rolling out mini stores in Kohl’s. According to Van Sluyters, cosmetics always bring increased foot traffic and partnerships like these will go a long way for the brands involved.
- Supply Chain and Staffing Issues
The double-whammy of the supply chain and staffing issues is wreaking havoc on inventory, fulfillment and the consumers’ experience. But many retailers are using technology to help streamline order tracking, manage customer loyalty programs and even communicate directly with customers. Technology is also being deployed on store shelves to help retailers track products in real time and to see how customers interact with products on the shelves.
But the issues don’t stop there. The labor shortage is also affecting things like fixture installation at the store level. As a result, vendors have looked at ways to develop and deliver easy-to-assemble modular systems so the end-user in the stores can easily put them together, saving time and manpower.
While this isn’t a new issue, many retailers are now paying even more attention to their carbon footprint and implementing eco-friendly, sustainable practices within their stores. Of course, we’ve seen the trend of eliminating plastic bags and making the commitment to use more renewable energy, but now some retailers are going further and have begun programs that include recycling the plastic barriers that were installed during Covid when they need replacing, and the installation of fixtures made from sustainable and plant-based materials.
“Consumers care about a sustainable future and shop with this in mind. As such, they want to spend their dollars with companies that provide eco-friendly solutions,” Van Sluyters said.
As customers return to the stores, retailers need to be ready to provide the best possible experience for them. Are you ready?
Let us help ensure you are; contact us today to learn what we can do together!