Impact of Digital on the Future of Retail

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Author: Anna Jones

Why Do Consumers Make the Purchases That They Do?

Shopping today is clearly not the same as it was 20 years ago. Now, we can order groceries, electronics, clothing, home improvement items - and so much more - conveniently from the computer in our pockets. We can compare products, “buy it now,” easily search and find items, and read reviews, all on one device, without having to travel anywhere. The convenience of online shopping has made it so that consumers across the globe not only prefer to shop online, but they have come to expect a “seamless omnichannel experience.”

Now the question is, what does it mean to be seamless?
Since omnichannel experience combines the digital and physical world, an example would be if a retail store has an in-store app experience in which customers can play a brand-related game on their mobile devices, then that would be a part of an omnichannel experience. If the consumer could win prizes, like coupons for brand items, even better - that is a fun solution that enhances the customer’s overall brand experience.

Likewise, the convenience that online shopping provides is a fast-delivery solution for many consumers, meaning they don’t have to be concerned with waiting in long checkout lines, finding products to compare, or locating an employee to help them with their purchase. These are some of the greatest concerns of today’s consumer, and online shopping manages to solve most, if not all, of those problems. Reviews by first-person buyer accounts are often favored over an in-store experience, in which a potential buyer has to find an employee to talk to about the product that they are purchasing. According to the Pew Research Center, “half of adults under 50 routinely check online reviews before buying new items,” and 96% of Americans shop online, according to CPC Strategy. However, despite all of the above data and the convenience of online shopping, most consumers still prefer to do their shopping in-store versus online.

What can we take away from this knowledge? That while online shopping is convenient, what truly matters is having a full buying experience - and price. According to TechCrunch and Pew Research from 2016, the cost of a product is the main reason why consumers buy online versus in-store, but more than that, the ability to easily compare costs is key. This is why it is imperative that stores do offer the aforementioned omnichannel experience, as opposed to rejecting technology altogether. By enhancing the in-store experience and combining it with technology, brick-and-mortar stores have the capacity to grow perhaps beyond their wildest dreams. This, however, can be a delicate balance, if a store’s main competition is online pricing for a comparable product.

If stores can figure out the quick-delivery solution - whether it’s in-store pickup, merging the digital and the tangible, offering deals and specials, or all of the above - it’s imperative that today’s physical stores figure out how to live in harmony with online monoliths, before they are deemed a thing of the past.