Shoppers Choose Brick and Mortar Stores

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We know the challenges in retail stores…and stores continue to close in response. The industry press is constantly reminding us that stores are closing, and it feels like the sky is falling. JCPenney just announced the closing of 140 stores last week.  We are going through a store rationalization due to being ‘overstored’.  While this plays out, customers continue to buy in both online and store channels. RetailDive recently conducted a survey to find out why:

  • 62% - Try out the item. Retail stores will always hold an advantage here, and associates are critical in facilitating these experiences with customers.
  • 49% - Take home items immediately. Theatro’s BOPIS solution speeds up the process of fulfillment in stores, and our request and respond apps drive massive improvements to speed of checkout. Customers want convenience, and we help associates provide that.
  • 20% - Return items more easily. Nobody likes boxing up items to be returned by mail. Often its easier to return to the store. Once in the store the customer is more likely to walk away with something new. With our product recommendation app (powered by CloudTags), we can build attachment and guide the associate who is processing the return to suggest complimentary items based on past purchases or new items based on their product affinity.

It's good to be reminded why stores are important. I'm certain all of us have chosen to go to a store for these reasons. However the survey and analysis show that only 13% of shoppers go into a store to ask the advice of an associate. In fact, the author continues on by stating:

"Accustomed to having information at their fingertips and on their mobile phones, consumers don't seem particularly motivated to seek answers from store employees — or at least, it's not a good enough reason to go to the store. Retailers may need to rethink staffing requirements and how to best utilize people power. Maybe those robots aren’t such a bad idea, after all."

This assessment is flawed because it is making an assessment of the associate based on a use case that is not common. Yes, there have been times where we want to go back to a store to talk specifically to an associate, but for most of the time, as the data points out above, consumers are going into the store to try on products, take items home immediately, and to get service. Connected associates are CRITICAL to ALL of these to top use cases. Getting the help of a connected and knowledgable associate while trying out an item will increase conversion rates. And employing connected associates who know can prepare a BOPIS order faster with Theatro will speed service, enabling customers to take home their items faster and with greater convenience.

What kind of store would you rather visit? A store filled with robots, or a store filled with knowledgable and friendly associates who provide the right service at the right time? OK I agree the robot store would be cool and novel. But as humans we will want to touch and feel product, and will choose to interact with associates who provide a personalized and relevant experience.