Shopping vs. Buying: The experience-driven behavior behind the brick-and-mortar renaissance

We’ve heard relentlessly over the years that brick-and-mortar stores are stagnating, closing their doors, and giving way to the inevitable e-commerce takeover. And that was true, with over 70% of people shopping less in-store as of March 2020.1

But times have changed significantly, with 72% of retail sales now projected to occur in brick-and-mortar stores by 2024, the highest since March 2020.2

So what’s driving this shift? And more importantly, how can brick-and-mortar take advantage of this behavior, connect with consumers, and keep them coming to the store while also operating in an ever-growing digital world? What is it that consumers truly want from these physical locations?

The short answer is one reliant on physical retail: a compelling retail experience. 65% of people find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.3 But what does an experience really mean when inflation and recession are leading people to be more mindful of how they spend their time and money?

When we think about the path to purchase, there’s an inherent difference between buying and shopping. We can easily buy online — that’s here to stay. But people want to go to a store to shop. Over 60% of people shop in store for enjoyment, and 50% of people missed the social aspect of shopping.4 They want to take in the ambiance, interact with the environment, and truly explore the store and its products. An experience creates true value, and as a result of these modern mindsets, modern retailers are approaching the era of experiential shopping in two ways:

EXCLUSIVITY: An unmatched shopping experience unique to what people simply cannot get online. The desire to actively shop has led to the focus on tangible experiences to drive interest, through activations based on specific consumer needs tied to the brand. These activations are being implemented across 3 key shopping categories: branded engagements, sensory experiences, and providing an enjoyable environment.

With these new offerings that provide enhanced, more immersive on-brand experiences across technology, tangibility, and hospitality, 2023 and the foreseeable future look to be years filled with innovation from retail locations and entertainment for people visiting them. The path to success within brick-and-mortar is now reliant on these activations, and the brands that act on this opportunity will rise to the top as leaders in their respective spaces.

GOOGLE – NEIGHBORHOOD KNOWLEDGE | Image by Stylus

BRANDED ENGAGEMENTS: Leveraging attributes specific to the brand to create an emotional or rational attachment with the consumer in an effort to increase connection brand loyalty.

IN PRACTICE:  Google’s new neighborhood-focused store format in Brooklyn will feature an installation by a local artist, whose work examines the relationship between architecture, community and environment. It will also host events and workshops celebrating the local area, including guided neighborhood walks where people will be able to try out the Google Pixel camera’s features. This experience creates multiple incentives to come to the new store, where one can learn about the neighborhood while learning about Google’s product at the same time.

 

POLETTE – MUSICAL KEYS TO INTERACT WITH AND PLAY | Image by Stylus

SENSORY EXPERIENCES: Physical brand spaces with sensorial qualities replace the memory of sensory deprivation born in the pandemic, providing a unique experience involving only scent and touch – you truly have to be there.

IN PRACTICE:  Polette’s new store features a musical experience inspired by John Lennon’s 1971 song “Imagine”. The walls and shelving constitute a piano-keyboard-shaped installation that consumers can play solo or in groups (symbolic of Lennon’s ode to togetherness). Light sensors signal when to press a designated key, providing a community-based orchestra and combining all attributes of our senses into one activation.

 

LACOSTE: A PLACE TO ENJOY | Image by Stylus

ENJOYABLE ENVIRONMENTS: Offering comfort away from the comfort of your home. People value hospitality, echoed by 30–50% more money being spent by consumers who drank a complimentary cup of coffee before roaming a retail store.5

IN PRACTICE: Lacoste has unveiled a 1615 sq. ft. neighborhood-style café, complete with tennis-club-style green awning, chairs and tables, and an outside courtyard. There is also a multifunctional room that can be used as a skate hall, yoga room or concert hall, depending on the collaboration. We see Lacoste go above and beyond to provide that hospitality, giving consumers an array of reasons to visit their location ahead the competition.

 

AN EXTENSION: 1 out of 3 people would visit a store if it had interactive virtual services. Furthermore, 1 out of 2 people have expressed at least some interest in augmented-reality shopping experiences; and among those, 4 out of 5 would be at least somewhat likely to make a purchase.6,7 It’s clear that shoppers are keen to get back into stores, but they also want to keep all the freedoms technology offers when they return.

The solution is to combine these two worlds and provide people with an extension of what they can get online through an elevated technological engagement — think enhanced reality, AR/VR, entering the metaverse, or some sort of augmented visual attraction.

META’S FIRST EVER STORE OFFERS PRODUCTS TO EXPLORE, ASSOCIATES TO EXPLAIN, AND THE METAVERSE TO ENTER | Image by Stylus

A brand doing this particularly well is Meta. In the Meta Store — the company’s first-ever physical retail space — you’ll be able to get hands-on experience with all of Meta’s hardware products, make video calls to retail associates with Meta Portal, and explore the magic of VR with a first-of-its-kind immersive Meta Quest 2 interactive demo, providing the balance between technology and in-store experience that consumers are looking for.

When we look at where brick-and-mortar is headed, gone are the days of going in-store to merely buy products with commerce-based, transaction-level purchases — online has that covered. The experience of actively shopping — and a location that actively provides that — has taken over, with people now coming to expect this level of enjoyment when they get dressed and head out the door.

With these new offerings that provide enhanced, more immersive on-brand experiences across technology, tangibility, and hospitality, 2023 and the foreseeable future look to be years filled with innovation from retail locations and entertainment for people visiting them. The path to success within brick-and-mortar is now reliant on these activations, and the brands that act on this opportunity will rise to the top as leaders in their respective spaces.

1* Prosper Insights

2* Forrester

3* PWC

4* Morning Consult

5* American Marketing Association

6* The Drum

7* PWC

Damian Rodriguez

Damian Rodriguez

Strategist, WONGDOODY

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