Let’s start with a bold statement.
Shoppers like shopping in store. That’s quite a statement from some whose last three purchases have come from Amazon, JohnLewis.com and Jcrew.com.
First of all, let me explain what and why I bought from those brands online.
Amazon – disclosure here…I’m a Prime customer. Let’s be honest, for £80 a year getting access to some pretty good video content for me and my pre-school daughter would have probably been enough of a selling point. Throw in the fact that a lot of that content can now be downloaded, I get free next day delivery on a plethora of goods, and when I need to stock up ‘wholesale’ on 500 firelighters I don’t need to go anywhere to find them.
JCrew.com – easy. I like their clothing but the nearest store is 200 miles away.
Johnlewis.com has a big advantage in comparison to my other favourite stores because there is physical store within driving distance. So this allows me to not only get my online order via Click and Collect (and returns are easy as well) but I get to experience the famous John Lewis customer service.
And there you go, I’ve used the word experience.
Experience comes in many guises.
I may want to experience the product – TimeTrade says 72% of customers want to touch and feel the product before they buy. This is certainly the case for me with high ticket items or where comfort in key.
I may want an experience – brands which might describe themselves as lifestyle brands have realised that getting the customer to experience the lifestyle they offer is an important method to achieve brand loyalty. That might be wall climbing in a The North Face store, or a yoga class in a Sweaty Betty boutique.
I may want to experience some personal advice – especially where it’s tech related.
In fact, many ‘click’ stores are turning to ‘brick’ for some customers.
Modcloth a clothing e-tailer, offers appointments to its ‘fit shops’, to guarantee a fitting room and a one-hour stylist consultation.
Bonobos, a men’s clothing e-tailer offers something similar with their Guide Shops.
Return rates for online clothing can push the 40% mark, so it makes sense to try and eliminate the ‘it didn’t fit’ reason.
And according to property consultancy Colliers, by 2021, the rate of growth in online sales is expected to decline from the current level of around 11pc to 7pc.
So will online retailers increasingly use real stores to bolster their sales and their brands?
And let’s not forget that the daddy of Western internet shopping, Amazon, has been dabbling in physical retail for few years now. From bookstores that double as gadget emporia, to a score of campus bookstores that don’t sell books and a convenience store without tills.
The end of the high street as we know it may be approaching, but I doubt it’s the end of the high street just yet.
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