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Online retailers are learning that physical stores still matter - expert

Nov 02 2019 21:00
Carin Smith

Physical stores still matter, whether a retailer has an online presence or not, according to John Ryan, stores editor of Retail Week, a UK-based news magazine, website and retail data service.

He finds that online-only retailers are increasingly coming to the conclusion that they are missing out by not having a brick-and-mortar presence as well.

"There is a desperate desire to get things to consumers exactly when they want it, in the form they want it and wherever they want it. Therefore, we are seeing successful online retailers leveraging what they already understand about consumer wants from a tech perspective and putting it into a physical store," Ryan said at the annual conference of the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) in Cape Town.

"It is about the 'intermingling' of the physical and technology in stores. Retailers must find the 'happy online/offline meeting place' to present humans as social animals what they are essentially curating: choice."

More than just a place

Furthermore, some big companies have created so-called "experience stores", offering customers more than just a place to buy an item, but rather a "destination" where they can interact – for as long as they want - with what the brand has to offer.

He has noticed that some big companies have decided to rather have fewer physical stores, but to make these better and more of a "destination" for consumers where the focus is on engaging with them.

The aim of these stores are to get consumers to spend time there and to ultimately create brand loyalty.

'If you don't disrupt, you're not much'

As for supermarkets, Ryan says there is more to it than "the old get in and get out" shopping idea.

"Customers want more than just giving you their money. Before there were supermarkets, there were markets and now we are going back to the idea of a market, but with the backing of technology," he explained.

A market feeling can be created by offering ample circulation space, as much natural light as possible and even by lowered ceilings.

At the same time, there are increasing examples of successful so-called "no-staff" stores. These "kiosks" are usually open 24/7 for the convenience of customers.

Retail success can also be about taking an old concept and making it new or taking the expected and putting it in an unusual context, according to Ryan. The giant Muji store in Tokyo, for example, even has a hotel as part of its in-store offering.

"If you do not disrupt you are not much of a retailer. Disrupt means doing something different," says Ryan. "It is about giving people a reason to go into your store."

online shopping  |  shopping centre  |  retail  |  ecommerce
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