Despite the rapid growth of e-commerce, physical stores maintain an advantage over web sites in creating customer loyalty through personalized shopping perks and amenities, a new survey shows. Now consumers are adding one more demand to the list of special perks they expect, asking brick-and-mortar stores to integrate their online shopping experiences.
For decades, retailers have held special events to drive traffic to their physical stores, and that trend is not going away despite the convenience and low prices of online shopping with home delivery. Nearly half of Americans prefer to make purchases in a store instead of shopping online, according to the survey of "Younger Millennials" (18-29 years old), "Older Millennials" (30-34), "Gen Xers" (ages 35-49), and "Boomers" (50-69) conducted by Harris Poll for Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates.
Shoppers still value traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experiences, and want those stores to be a hub for both shopping and entertainment, also known as blended retail, Coldwell Banker said Tuesday. One of the most common incentives to draw customers in to a brick-and-mortar store is experiential retail, which features an array of tangible perks and memorable events that e-commerce just can't offer, Coldwell Banker said. Those retail experiences can include free samples, in-store classes, product demonstrations, holiday celebrations, celebrity appearances, and other customer incentives.
"We're seeing that Americans still value in-store retail experiences in an increasingly e-commerce world, but brick-and-mortar retailers will need to embrace aspects of online shopping and invest in experiential retail to drive traffic in-store," Fred Schmidt, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates, said in a release.
Those perks are still effective, but consumers in 2016 are demanding another level of specialized treatment, asking stores to seamlessly blend their online and physical store experiences, the survey showed. More than one-third of Americans (35 percent) report they are more likely to make purchases online if they have the option to return the items in the store. Similarly, one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) are more likely to shop online if they have the option to pick up their items in the store.
That trend is putting pressure on retailers to find new commercial real estate that allows them to accommodate the added logistics of in-store pickups and returns.
"Retailers are beginning to invest in off-site warehouses to handle merchandise for in-store transactions involving pickups and returns," Schmidt said. "Stockrooms and fulfillment centers will need to be expanded, but despite these challenges, e-commerce can be a huge traffic driver and offer a unique advantage to brick-and-mortar retailers by getting customers through the door."
The survey was conducted online within the U.S. from September 14-16, 2016 among 2,069 adults ages 18 and older.