Alive and still kicking: the future role of traditional brick-and-mortar stores

By Laura Arthurton, CEO Conversity

Online shopping has never been easier and more accessible. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile and internet connectivity, consumers today have a huge choice of channels through which they can make their purchases. Despite this growth in ecommerce, the majority of consumers still place great value in a personalised in-store experience when buying products.

Alive and kicking

According to a recent consumer survey that we carried out, there is still a great deal of life in the high street. The study interviewed 1,000 consumers, divided between millennials (aged 21-37), Generation X (aged 38-53) and baby boomers (aged 54-72). Each of those surveyed had made what is defined as a “complex purchase” in the past 12 months – this relates to the purchase of high-value products that people don’t buy on a regular basis, such as televisions, electricals or furniture.

Over half of the respondents (56 per cent) think it’s either important or very important to interact with someone in-store when they’re making complex purchases. This figure is highest amongst millennials (64 per cent), which is indicative of how consumer behaviour is evolving and how younger generations are coming to value deeper experiences beyond a more traditional sales process.

Building omni-channel

In the digital age, it can be challenging to entice consumers into visiting stores. However, it’s clear from this research that the high street still has a lot to offer, so making the most of it is about blending both online and in-store and building a truly omni-channel experience.

So what can you do as a retailer to make this happen?

Tech to the fore

This is where technology that can rapidly simplify the challenges of making a complex purchase will make a real difference. Buying something like a new mobile phone or laptop often entails navigating a multitude of device options and wading through hundreds of different product or contract configurations before arriving at something that you think is best suited to your needs.

Intelligent guided selling has the potential to fill this void. It works by making relevant, real-time recommendations based on data from CRM systems, customer preferences and business rules. Such technology can be used by sales advisors in-store to enhance their ability to assist customers, empowering them to take customer service to a whole new level. At the same time, it can be used across all other channels, which helps build a seamless shopping experience.

Online and in-store working in unison

Physical stores are far from dying out. If anything, our research has shown that their role is increasing in importance in many ways. When it comes to complex purchases, consumers want to see and feel the products they are buying, and in many cases, they want to talk to a sales advisor before making purchases.

Making the most of this is about enhancing the experiential aspect of the in-store experience, and aligning it with the online one as best as possible. Achieve this, and retailers will find that physical stores will serve them well for many years to come.

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