Michael Bosshammer, Head of Retail at Elavon Europe, shares his insights
“The pandemic ignited the collapse of well-known retail giants and the rise of online-only shops, exacerbating fears of the ‘death of the high street’. However, shoppers haven’t abandoned the in-store experience. Now that events and commuting have returned, consumers are shopping in-store more often, and rediscovering the pleasure of touching and feeling items again.1 Our research found that 38% of UK adults surveyed said the ease of making choices when they were able to see items in person was their biggest reason to shop in store. One-third of respondents said their main driver for in-store shopping was the ability to better assess product quality, with almost another third (31%) citing a wish to support their local economy.
While customers recognise that the in-store experience cannot be matched by a click from their couch, they enjoy the choice and convenience when shopping online, and want more from in-store retail. Omnicommerce is now the norm for browsing, purchasing and post-sales servicing and customers expect the experience to be seamless.
Successful brands understand this and are finding innovative ways to combine their online and offline strategies to attract and benefit the customer, capitalising on opportunities to grow both global and local audiences. Examples of this include promoting in-store offers and activities across social media channels, ecommerce apps and websites, and making it easier for customers to browse and place online orders for in-person deliveries or collections whilst in-store.
The challenge for retailers is having to manage several methods and processes for ordering, delivery and payment. Retailers have been forced to get comfortable with hybrid ways of trading, recognising that online platforms are the ‘shop windows’ of their businesses. Retailers can stay ahead of the curve by offering extra services from video chats with in-store sales staff to assist when purchasing at home, to the use of innovative technology that enables customers to replicate physical experiences, such as IKEA’s augmented reality (AR) app that allows consumers to design entire rooms.
As these technologies become mainstream, smaller businesses will be able to adopt the same approach. For example, opportunities such as Google’s Virtual Tour are already enabling businesses such as local salons and restaurants to create interactive 360 experience on a budget, giving customers the digitally enriched experience that they’ve become accustomed to during the pandemic.”