Taking a blended approach to merchandising
Back in 2015, despite growing omnichannel preference, McKinsey & Company predicted that 80 percent of U.S. retail sales would occur in stores in 2020. While the percentage may have fluctuated a bit since then, most consumers still visit stores in some form during their shopping journeys—and not always in a linear fashion.
For example, shoppers may begin their search online but stop by a store for more information or firsthand impressions. Others will buy online only to return that product in-store or exchange it for another. Others will visit stores and decide to purchase, but finish the transaction online. Apparently, consumers aren’t averse to the in-store experience—not even those picky millennials.
What’s critical is giving shoppers something for the time they spend in-store; something that’s experiential in delivery but practical within a larger multichannel strategy. In other words, more than just another coupon or blowout sale (although those do drive traffic).
Creating a valuable in-store experience can involve anything from clear and legible wayfinding signage to a knockout endcap display that passersby can’t help but notice.
For some of our retail clients, these methods make plain sense. Shoppers can read all they want about the world’s lightest laptop, but it’s another thing entirely to hold it in your hands. At the end of the day, a 4K display makes a much better impression in person than any written review could possibly convey.
But in-store experiences can integrate digital ones, too. Shoppers can download special promotions and read online reviews of the product they’re considering. And if they have further questions, they can get immediate feedback from a retail associate—something that can’t happen online unless you have a talented learning AI.
Tailoring your in-store appearance can and should be done to a scale that makes sense for your business, target audience, and sales strategy (assuming you have one). Stores like Story, a boutique shop in New York City, realign their entire store to a revolving theme by altering layouts and inventory on a regular basis. These continual changes to the store make it seem more like an art gallery than a traditional retail space. Exclusivity generates foot traffic, and brands compete to have their products featured.
Such radical transformations aren’t necessarily the future of retail, but they’re further proof that what happens in-store matters.