Brick-and-Mortar Experience Wins Over Shoppers

In Australia, the value of online purchases has grown at an average rate of 15% per annum since 2005, and Forrester predicts that online retail sales will hit $33.3 billion by 2015.

With everyone talking about e-commerce these days, what’s going to happen to brick-and-mortar retailers?

Rest assured, your corner store isn’t going virtual anytime soon.

While e-commerce offers several potential advantages, such as access to a wider variety of items, lower prices, and the convenience of avoiding crowds and traffic, the fact is that most people, even Gen Y digital natives, actually enjoy physical shopping.

According to survey results by the Urban Land Institute, “Generation Y thoroughly enjoys shopping and frequently visits most types of centers,” but the physical shopping experience “must be exciting.”

Of course, channel preference varies by category, but for products where physical properties matter (such as appearance/weight of electronics or feel of fabrics) brick and mortar still rules.

According to researchers from Deakin University in Australia, “It would be short-sighted indeed to both underestimate and undervalue the significance of tactile interaction with a product and the human-service interactions that can only be found in a store environment.”

The challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers is not just to offer the benefits of e-commerce (price, access, convenience) but also to offer shoppers an experience they can’t have online—including a focus on retail design and customer service.

Bupa health insurance is just one company that has recognized the advantages of the physical environment. Its “health experience” store offers visitors a concierge, a health-and-wellness zone, and eye checks, along with access to all Bupa services.

Bupa state manager for Queensland, Chris Smedley, states, “Many of our members have told us they value their personal relationship with us—and we know we can deliver that in a really innovative way here in our Brisbane store.”

Retail isn’t just about a transaction; it’s an opportunity to experience a brand and deepen a relationship. Retailers who recognize this—regardless of channel—will be the big winners.

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Contributed by Jennie Moore, Integer Australia