Three ways retailers can compete with e-tailers

Almost four in five shoppers (78 per cent) prefer bricks-and-mortar stores over online retailers because of the ability to try, touch and feel products, according to a recent study by Mood Media. And 64 per cent of Australian millennials would rather shop in-store than online, given the right atmosphere.

This tells us there are many advantages an in-store experience has over an eCommerce site if only store owners would use them.

1. Engage all the senses

Physical retailers can control the shopping environment in a number of ways that online stores cannot, making shoppers more receptive to both their products and shopping in general:

  • Visual cues to attract and hold customers’ attention. Like a store that has an interactive terminal that displays visual beach themes and also dispenses a coconut mist to allow consumers to be virtually taken to a holiday destination to tie in with beach-themed products.
  • Soundtracks designed to appeal to a particular demographic.
  • Allowing the public to touch and feel texture and quality, plus product demonstrations that showcase its benefits.
  • A signature scent or a themed scent. For example, the newsagent that was promoting a slow cooker themed magazine by setting up a slow cooker with a delicious-smelling stew in-store, fresh vegetables on display, and providing free samples to taste.

2. Remove in-store frustrations

If you were to compile all of the reasons shoppers like to buy online, collectively they come down to the ease of the purchase, whether that’s finding what they want quickly or checking out speedily. In response, physical retail stores need to remove those in-store frustrations to match the online experience, while pushing their natural advantages.

By investing in a good team, physical store owners can make sure customer service is an advantage for them. According to Jochen Wirtz and Ron Kaufman in The Harvard Business Review, the best customer service comes from well-trained employees who have both the freedom to help, and the support they need to make that help meaningful. A good assistant supports the shopper to find what they need quickly. Store layout is also an important factor in this, so make sure your team members know where everything is, and that the layout makes sense.

Physical stores should also reduce the time between the shopper making a decision to purchase and the transaction taking place. The pleasure of shopping comes from the browsing and decision-making stages, whereas the checkout stage is a necessary (but less pleasurable) bump in that journey. So reducing the checkout process time will increase customers’ satisfaction with shopping in-store. It will also free up retail staff, making them available to provide better customer service.

3. Trigger impulse buys

An in-store shopping experience is ripe for inducing impulse purchases. Physical retailers have the advantage of immediacy, convenience, easier returns of unsuitable purchases, and the option to “try before you buy”, all of which are key elements leading to an impulse buy. 62 per cent of impulse purchases by Australian consumers are swayed by discounts and promotions, so any cues to encourage these buying decisions will contribute, including having customer service assistants with the autonomy to offer a spontaneous discount to nudge shoppers over the line.

Today it’s rare that a person will buy exclusively online, but if traditional retailers want to stay competitive in the 24/7 retail landscape they have to use the advantages of their physical retail environment. Shoppers aren’t just buying a product when in-store, they’re buying an experience. If physical retailers can get that experience right, it will inspire repeat visits, boost recommendations, and increase in-store dwell times to keep the retail store thriving.

Adam Joy, CEO, the Australian Lottery and Newsagents’ Association