The growth of e-commerce simultaneously presents challenges and an enormous opportunity for retailers. Studies have shown that when a retailer opens a physical store, the online traffic to its e-commerce platform from that geographic area increases by 52 percent. Physical stores are increasingly “showrooming” or becoming places to show off a product line, to drive sales both in stores and online.
In automotive showrooms, consumers climb into the driver’s seat and give the car a test drive. It’s an immersive experience.
Retailers have been exploring the fringe of this approach for years. Apple and Sephora are two of the most well-known pioneers of this trend. For years, their loyal shoppers have played with their products, tried things out, and ultimately bought both online and in stores.
But Apple and Sephora are no longer outliers. The full retail experience is quickly becoming the norm for retailers all over the world.
Two good examples:
Lush: The beauty supply company looks like an old-timey apothecary with wooden barrels filled with crafted soaps and paper-wrapped lotion bars. But the retail experience is anything but old-fashioned. The company has been making headlines for aligning its online and offline customer experience. The Lush Lens lets shoppers learn more about products, including who made it, by using their phones. Tablets enable customers to check out wherever they like in the store – both a convenience and way to drive home the experience that Lush products can be bought online.
Patagonia: The company known for its outdoor clothing and gear has been recently branding itself as an advocacy organization, making major political statements and defending fair trade practices and the environment. They extend this retail/advocacy experience by hosting yoga classes and in-store talks by experts. The brand’s efforts lend a whole new meaning to a jacket being a “statement piece.”
So, what should retailers do today to bolster their retail experiences? Focus on customer choice. Customers want to interact with products, sample things, look up more information, use technology when in stores, and receive suggestions.
They may also want to take that enjoyable experience right out the door and shop online. And that’s OK. Brands will win customers – in store and online – by being flexible and catering to the retail experiences they want to have.