Some suggest that the continued rise of digital technologies will make the role of local retail stores obsolete. However, recent Ipsos research and leading real world examples suggest that the relationship between digital and in-store shopping is far more nuanced and interconnected.
One of the key outcomes from the research was that consumers visit stores for much more than just the purchase transaction - they want a more informative, entertaining and customised experience. The research indicated that shoppers are significantly more likely to shop in stores where they get personalised product recommendations as well as exclusive offers.
In short, we expect more than ever from retailers and want them to anticipate our needs as we progress through a purchase journey. Welcome to the return of retail theatre!
Digital to Physical Transition
Leading digital retailers such as Warby Parker and Bonobos are continuing to launch physical stores, but not in a traditional manner. Andy Dunn, Bonobos CEO states "we were wrong at the beginning. In 2007 we started the company, and we said, 'The whole world is going online only. All we're going to do is be online.' But what we've learned recently is that the offline experience of touching and feeling clothes isn't going away."
Bonobos are a great example of using unique physical spaces with their Guideshops, which provide customers the ability to determine sizing and be styled by experts instore, all during a personalised appointment (you'll even be offered a cold beer from the fridge). Items are ordered on behalf of the customer and are delivered directly to their home or office.
Bonobos have also recently launched Groomshops which allow guys that are getting ready for that special occasion to have as much fun as the Bride - think Say Yes To The Dress for dudes.
Warby Parker’s physical locations provide a similar level of brand experience and product interaction. Their store in Chicago includes a video jukebox corner, a resident portrait photographer and of course the ability to try all of their glasses on before ordering.
Digital leaders are leveraging the scalability and functionality of their digital/ eCommerce infrastructure for efficiency and using their physical spaces to showcase amazing brand experiences. This provides a great mix of customer experience and operational efficiencies (with online distribution centres managing the logistical aspects such as providing the stock holding and shipping).
Physical Leveraging Digital
There are many great examples of digital technologies transforming physical businesses. I've previously highlighted how retailers like Kate Spade and Sportschek are creating immersive digital experiences.
Nordstrom and Walgreens are widely recognised as established retailers that are leading the way in their omnichannel execution. The key tenants of both of their strategies is their achievement of inventory visibility across multiple customer channels as well as leveraging their stores as assets for customer interactions.
The Future Is A Digital-Physical Fusion
Many terms have been created to describe the phenomenon of merging physical assets and digital enablement tools – digical, digital-physical fusion and phygital. Fundamentally, consumers will continue to have high expectations about how they shop. Successful businesses are mapping their customer experience journey to understand how digital technologies can support and enhance each customer interaction.
Combining physical and digital assets promises to transform nearly every aspect of every industry. Are you ready?