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e-Commerce Industry News

October 13, 2013
More than a store: The projected evolution brick-and-mortar shops
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October 13, 2013
What value are people getting from stores? What value are people getting from stores?
The reports of brick-and-mortar's death have been greatly exaggerated. While it is true that people are beginning to spend more of their retail budgets shopping online, the fact of the matter is that physical stores still play a prominent role in the omnichannel retailing experience. The conventional brick-and-mortar store - the one that existed simply as a location at which people made purchases - has died. However, in its place, the immersive, interactive physical store shopping experience has arisen. Brick-and-mortar is not going away, it is just getting a facelift.

A recent infographic by Epsilon made note of some of the ways the retail store is changing. A handful of the transformations involve the use of new omnichannel retailing technologies to improve the functionality of shopping experience, while others are simple ways to make it more enjoyable.

Making brick-and-mortar a high-tech experience
For example, the endless aisle approach is gaining a lot of traction in the retail space. Endless aisles allow customers to make purchases from in-store kiosks, even if the item is not in stock. In essence, it is like shopping online but in-store, and people can get their purchases delivered straight to their homes or pick them up in-store on arrival. This is beneficial because it allows merchants to convert shoppers, even if the item they wanted is not available.

Beacons and geofencing are other tools that can better engage mobile device users while on the premises of a brick-and-mortar location. Geofencing sends automated messages to customers the moment they walk by a storefront, while beacons function in a similar way except in-store. At the end of the day, these mobile tools allow retailers to call out specific items to customers attention based on any number of factors.

Bolstering the actual shopping experience
Of course, there is more to shopping than just making a purchase. Bookstores such as Barnes & Nobles have known this for a while, and they have offered snack stations and seating to customers who just want to kick back and relax. Now, other merchants and sellers are catching on adding their own unique flair to the shopping experience.

Comfy seating, phone and tablet charging stations, free Wi-Fi - these are just a few ways retail brands are getting their customers to stay a while. Even if these people do not wind up making a direct purchase, other amenities such as drinks or food items may give retailers another avenue to drive additional revenue, the Epsilon infographic noted.

Some retailers are even offering kid zones. These areas may either be a quasi-day care center when parents can leave their children while they shop, or they may serve as special areas dedicated to kids products. Both have their advantages, whether it is allowing parents to do their shopping in peace or engaging children directly, and they can make the shopping experience more enjoyable in the long haul.

Ultimately, these additional experiences will be unique to the seller in question and should be rolled out based on the interests of loyal customers. What works for one merchant may not work for another, based solely on their target audience.

At the end of the day, the brick-and-mortar shopping experience has become all about the creation of value. Merchants must look to give in-store shoppers more value, whether that is through endless aisle concepts, free Wi-Fi or something in between. Retailers need to look at their current physical stores and see whether they are actually providing their customers with any value.