Some retailers may think it’s impossible to get people flocking back into stores, given the economic climate that is hampering the post lockdown recovery. However, if you speak to shoppers, there is much cause for optimism, so long as retailers are committed to adapting to the new and improved experiences shoppers are now expecting.
When Mood Media asked UK consumers about their shopping intentions, more than 66% shoppers intend on getting back to real, social shopping experiences where they can touch items and buy them instantly, rather than wait for a courier to ring their doorbell.
Retailers cannot expect to simply open the doors and watch customers flood back in, though. Shoppers are coming back to physical retail, but their expectations have now grown. They want an excellent service from knowledgeable sales staff, backed up by the latest in-store technology and they also want retailers to show they share the public’s concern for the environment.
If this could all be simplified into one goal, it would be to provide the right ambience. More than two in three shoppers (71%) now prioritise physical stores over ecommerce if there is a pleasant in-store atmosphere. What’s more, 72% reveal they stay longer, 75% will recommend the store to a friend and 82% will expect to return.
Good Old Fashioned Customer Service
Retailers will not be surprised to hear that friendly staff is named as the top priority for nearly half of shoppers. This is especially true in smaller stores than in larger stores according to Mood’s study, reinforcing the role of expertise in conversion for smaller operators.
Beyond store size and format, the survey underlines how central a role friendly, knowledgeable, and available staff play in creating an enjoyable physical store atmosphere. A good layout was next, closely followed by an uncluttered environment and fast checkout. Creating stores with a pleasant atmosphere is most likely to drive repeat visits among 84% of those surveyed.
Retail technology is not only changing how people shop online, it is now a central part of how people expect to shop in-store. Mood research shows they clearly expect online and physical experiences to be digital, or ‘phygital’ as it is now widely being referred to.
This not only means providing click and collect services but also meeting the expectation of 38% of shoppers that they will be able to use interactive digital screens to be introduced to a retailer’s full range, including which items are in stock and how they can be customised.
The metaverse is intriguing to UK shoppers with 33% expecting retailers to provide information on how to visit the retailer’s store in the metaverse or other virtual space and more than a third of shoppers now expect stores to invest in digital payment and self-service technology, 41%.
To get an idea of where this could take retailing, it is worth considering what some fashion retailers are doing with interactive mirrors, such as River Island in the UK. These can be used to check how items fit, can check on stock of different sizes and colours while also requesting an assistant.
Screens are introducing the ‘endless aisle’ where shoppers can check out and order online stock, if an item is not available within a store. Smart screens can also be activated by an RFID tag, through using ‘place and learn’ technology, to display information about items on a neighbouring shelf. In Europe and Asia, avatar technology is even being used to allow customers to try on garments virtually.
More than half of consumers also want to see digital self-service technology like this in stores, alongside mobile assistants, to help them locate items and pay for them without running the risk of a queue at the cash register. Hollister has even started to use a digital payment service through which customers, typically teens, can send a request to a parent to pay for their shopping choices.
Similarly, more than half of shoppers are also interested in using VR and augmented reality to assist in trying on outfits and seeing how home furnishing might look in their house. This is even being applied to turning pictures of a person into make-up and skincare advice at J.C. Penney in the United States, and other stores in Europe and Asia.
Sustainability Truly Matters
There is no getting away from it, the public is deeply concerned by the climate emergency and will shop accordingly. People are now increasingly looking to buy brands with strong sustainability credentials from stores that share their concern for the environment.
The Mood research shows that more than half, 55%, expect retailers to provide recycling options. This is prompting a clear trend that can already be seen at stores such as Galeries Lafayette opening its Le(Re)Store circular fashion service in Paris or Casino’s launch of its O’Caz second-hand range at outlets across France.
Nearly half expect shops to limit their use of air conditioning, enclose refrigerated displays and turn off lights when they are closed. Sustainability is not something a retailer can simply offer, then, it has to be reflected in how the public perceives a brand and cutting down on energy usage is clearly a good look for customers as well as good news for power bills.
Crucially, it is also good news for cash registers as more than a half of the shopping public, 56%, revealing they are more likely to buy from a store they can see displays strong sustainability values.
Retailers who position themselves as caring organisations sharing shopper concerns over the environment and acting upon it with the right sustainable measures in-store, but also online initiatives can expect to outperform those who are hoping that simply opening the doors will be enough.
Savvy retailers know this is not the case, and research back it up. Shoppers’s expectations have changed. They want the reassurance of the old, through great service, backed up by the best of the new, great tech that adds to a superb customer experience.