Customers love shopping in-store but still expect connected experiences

Anyone who’s ever tried to go to Ikea on a Saturday morning could probably tell you that retail isn’t dead, despite many, many, many obituaries to the contrary.

And while it is a fact that recent years have seen many seemingly unshakable chain retailers closing their doors, other brick-and-mortar businesses seem to be thriving even as experts predict their demise.

So what gives? In a time when big department stores like Macy’s are shutting down locations to the tune of 15%, why are brands like Casper, Target, and Warby Parker opening even more locations? It could be that some retailers simply have a better understanding of who their customers are and exactly what they want from their in-store experiences.

Content produced in collaboration with Oracle Bronto.

Who’s shopping in-store? (It might not be who you think)

Imagine a brick-and-mortar shopper.

Be honest, you imagined a boomer didn’t you? But the truth is, customers from all generations still like the experience of shopping in a physical location. According to a recent study by Bronto, 42% of Gen X-ers report shopping in a store once a week, while 47% of millennials say they shop both online and in a store once a week, and 33% of Boomers visited a store’s physical location in a single week.

So what do shoppers increasingly want from their in-store experiences? The same thing they want online: personalization.   

Younger customers still expect technology

Brands opening more locations, like Casper, Target, and Warby Parker all have one thing in common: millennials  love them. And that’s probably because they’ve linked the ways their customers can shop online and off.

All customers want more and better in-store technology to connect their online lives to their offline shopping habits, according to the Bronto study. The majority of shoppers of all ages, 56%, expect retailers to add more mobile technologies and applications in order for them to receive a more personalized in-store shopping experience. As personalization becomes a key component in most of our digital marketing strategies, customers want that same consideration from physical retail experiences.  

No one expects that personalization more than millennials. They’re frequent shoppers who are just as comfortable buying items through targeted social media ads as they are popping into a storefront with a quick question. That’s probably why 69% of them have high expectations when it comes to retailers and technology. But customers won’t use technology they don’t need, so understanding expectations is key to offering connectivity that adds value.   

Understanding why customers are coming into the store is key

Virtual showrooms, lookbooks, and even retargeting are still no substitute for the real thing. Ordering a cart full of items online and waiting a week for delivery, only to find out they aren’t quite right, then going through the hassle of returning them kind of defeats the purpose of shopping online. It was supposed to be easier, right?

There’s a lot to be said for going to a store, trying an item, and speaking to a sales associate before purchase, which is probably why 66% of consumers said they shop in store to see, hold, and try out products before they buy. Availability of products, easy checkout, and discounts were the top three most important factors for customer satisfaction in brick-and-mortar shops.  

So what kind of experiences are they looking for?

Well, for starters, they’d appreciate wifi. At least millennials would, with 45% listing free wifi as important or very important to their shopping experience. But driving in-store traffic with technology is, of course, about more than just wifi. For example, Target helps customers avoid inventory woes while finding discounts with its Cartwheel App, which allows customers to scan items to hunt for deals and redeem loyalty points. Another millennial favorite, Warby Parker, recently introduced a savvy point-of-sale (POS) system that manages customer prescriptions and purchase histories to provide personalized recommendations, both online and off.

We tend to place a lot of emphasis on the differences between boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, and while the things they purchase may be different, their expectations really aren’t. Consumers of all ages want to feel more like people and less like profiles, both in-store and online. Technology that helps customers feel seen, even if they’re standing right in front of a salesperson, is always welcome.

If you want to learn more about in-store consumer shopping trends don’t miss Oracle Bronto’s report ‘In-Store Shopping Behaviors: Why Shoppers Make the Trek to Store.’

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