Shoppers feel that they get a better retail experience online than in-store, including better service, more perks and rewards, and the ability to make smarter purchasing decisions, according to WSL Strategic Retail’s recent Digital Shopper Focus Group. Conducted in June 2013, the group gathered 11 frequent shoppers ages 24 to 50 of both online retail sites and brick-and-mortar stores for a conversation about how online shopping has changed consumer expectations in-store. Here’s what shoppers are saying about online versus in-store:
1.“Shopping online is so clean and simple; shopping in-store feels chaotic.” Shoppers described online stores as clean, straightforward and easy to navigate – a sharp contrast to most of their in-store retail experiences, particularly around Black Friday and at holiday crunch time. Those who were seeking a specific item or working within a tight timeline say they are frustrated with the experience of traditional stores, having to sort through aisles and racks in hopes of finding what they are looking for. In the age of searching for an item with a single click or keyword, brick-and-mortar stores must rethink their merchandising strategy to be more organized and efficient, if they expect to compete.
2. “It’s so much easier to click-through check-out than to stand in line.” Shoppers noted the ability to by-pass dreaded checkout lines — particularly at holiday time — by purchasing a product via mobile POS device while in-store as one of many convenience-based improvements brick-and-mortar stores could implement into the shopping experience. The desire for digital integration also included the ability to search for additional sizes, product information, color options and customer reviews.
3. “Sales associates are either too pushy or nowhere to be found.” Shoppers want knowledgeable sales associates who can offer informed recommendations without being too pushy. They like to feel that they can be left alone to browse, but that someone will be there to help, if they need it. Online personal shopper pop-up windows make it easy to ask a question or get a recommendation, and move on.In the traditional retail world, the educated sales staffs at stores such as Apple, J. Crew and Home Depot were cited as having extensive product knowledge and the best understanding of how to approach customers.
4. “I get better deals and better rewards shopping online.” Sale-seeking shoppers believe they can find better prices and receive better rewards by shopping online rather than in-store. The added benefits include higher credit card reward points and the freedom to choose perks that are most meaningful to them, such as which free samples they personally most want to try.
5. “I still love to shop in stores that are fun.” While the online world has set the new standard for convenience, efficiency and selection, the offline retail world has the unique opportunity to deliver engaging experiences that cannot be duplicated. Shoppers shared examples such as Apple and Sephora that create fun, “destination” environments where they are free to touch, try and play with products. Meeting Santa, listening to Christmas carolers and browsing nostalgic department store window displays are key holiday attractions that draw shoppers to the store year-after-year.