Clicks to Bricks: Digital-Native Brands Understand the Modern Consumer
There's currently a paradigm shift underway in the retail industry. Established retailers such as J.C.Penney, Payless Shoes and Macy’s are closing stores, while smaller, digital-native brands are opening brick-and-mortar locations.
So, what’s up? Wasn’t retail supposed to be dying?
The explanation isn’t that simple. It’s not that retail is dying; rather, the store closures we’ve seen recently from big retail brands are a result of lack of growth and innovation when it comes to in-store experiences.
Stores that transition from online-only to brick-and-mortar have had a chance to learn who their customers are — specifically, what they purchase and how they purchase. This is valuable insight that these retailers can then utilize to make strategic decisions that cater to their customers’ wants, such as ideal locations, store size and floor plans, optimal product stocking based on online buying behaviors, and in-store experiences unique to their brands.
For some traditional retailers, their failure to evolve is leading to their massive demise. This is making way for newer retailers that are agile and catering to changing consumer expectations by pivoting rapidly, based on new technology or social trends.
A Physical Presence Is Key to the Modern Buying Journey
Recent research proves that today’s consumers are shopping across multiple channels before making a purchase. In fact, multichannel behavior has increased by 9 percent over last year. Therefore, a brick-and-mortar strategy must not be abandoned, as it plays a critical role in the customer journey.
The research also shows that consumers would visit physical stores more often if they had access to a well-trained staff, could spend less time standing in lines, and gain a more positive experience with the brand and its products as a result.
This clearly illustrates that retailers must innovate their in-store experience if they want to succeed. Hosting events or classes, allowing consumers to make appointments before visiting a physical location, and incorporating technology into the in-store experience (e.g., high-tech fitting rooms) are all ways to enhance the traditional shopping experience.
The truth is, consumers still crave the connection and convenience that only physical stores can offer. In fact, 87 percent of people still want the ability to experience the product or service before making a commitment to a purchase. Furthermore, in our increasingly complex retail world where consumers have more options than ever, they still want access to staff expertise that's most easily gained in-store.
In Retail, the Only Constant Is Change
The reason why younger brands succeed is because they're agile and able to incorporate differentiating elements into their stores. The retail landscape — and, as a result, consumer purchasing behaviors — is changing more rapidly today than ever before. Because of this, agility in retail should be viewed as a company ethos rather than a technology methodology.
What I mean by this is that the entire company must be ready and willing to adapt and react to quick changes in the market. The landscape is evolving every day and companies that are nimble are more likely to prevail over companies that are stuck in their ways. Agility is so important for today’s retailers, because consumers expect an experience that suits their individual lifestyle. Retailers need to offer as many options as possible to create the path of least resistance to a final purchase decision.
For example, in July, athleisure brand Fabletics announced plans to quadruple its brick-and-mortar footprint to 100 stores worldwide. Beyond leveraging huge amounts of customer data collected from online channels to inform its strategy, Fabletics is experimenting with a new design, a high-tech payment processing system and other in-store features, including a leggings bar and selfie wall for photo-ops. By re-imagining the in-store experience, Fabletics will draw consumers in and will be able to evolve alongside their changing habits.
Moving forward, we’ll continue to see this trend of online-first brands investing in physical locations to round out their offerings and boost the overall customer experience. The key to their success and growth will be maximizing in-store potential.
Hayley-Jayne Cone is the chief customer officer at BookingBug, an online scheduling and booking software.