Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brick-and-mortar meets mobile: How the retail world is changing, and what it means for shoppers

Holiday Shopping-Black Friday
According to a recent study by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, 90 percent of all retail sales still occur in-store. But retailers need to up their game if they want to stay relevant. (AP Photo/Sun Herald, John Fitzhugh)
Anna Marum | The Oregonian/OregonLive By Anna Marum | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian
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NEW YORK -- Though e-commerce sales are on the rise, they only made up 6.6 percent of total retail sales in last year's third quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
And according to a recent survey of 2,500 shoppers by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, 90 percent of all sales still occur in physical stores.

The analysis went on to highlight the importance of brick-and-mortar stores in the future. At the National Retail Federation's annual conference here this week, speakers also touted the relevancy of physical stores and gave retailers advice on leveraging their stores in a world where shoppers make purchases on their phones, tablets and computers in addition to stores.
If retailers follow that advice, here are a few things shoppers can expect to see in coming years:

Seamless ordering

Say you visit your favorite store looking for a new pair of jeans, but they don't have your size. So the salesperson orders you the correct size. The company automatically calculates the fastest way to deliver the jeans, and they show up on your doorstep two days later, shipped from a nearby store (rather than a distribution center). Though some retailers already operate this way, it will become
more commonplace.

Better customer service

As consumers have more ways to shop, many retailers are using their brick-and-mortar stores to offer shoppers an experience, rather than just focusing on sales. This means a bigger emphasis on customer service to ensure that customers' experiences are always good ones.
Responsive innovations
Retailers do well to listen to their customers. A company that notices shoppers tweaking or changing their products can capitalize on that. For instance, when Levi's noticed its customers customizing their jeans, they started offering their own customization service: Levi's Lot No. 1.

Better in-store searchability

One of the downfalls of in-store shopping is that it can be really hard to find what you're looking for. So retailers are starting to realize they need to bring the search tools of online shopping to stores. This means customers would be able to find items on their list more easily, perhaps with an app that tells them which aisle each item is on or provides them with a personalized shopping route through the store. And while the technology to bring online-like searchability to stores already exists, few retailers offer it now.
The bottom line
At the NRF conference, James Wright, a senior partner at consulting firm Lippincott, left retailers with this: "If you decide you're not going to invest (in new technologies), you're going to have a very bad time."
-- Anna Marum

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