In-store Shopping: The Consumer Experience

Last year, according to Coresight Research, there were 5,048 store openings and only 4,975 store closures in the United States, showing a rebound within the pandemic. This year, things look even brighter. As of the end of January 2022, the 742 stores that closed represent a whopping 65 percent fewer than the number of stores that shut down in the same period last year. On the other hand, 1,910 stores have opened, representing a three percent increase from the same time last year.

A fifth of all store openings in 2021, or 1,039 openings, were by Dollar General. Even if all the store openings planned by other companies for 2022 are combined, Dollar General’s planned 1,102 store openings for this year still tops that. These will add to their almost 18,000 existing stores. Other retailers that intend to open shops this year are Aerie, Burlington Stores, Citi Trends, Big Lots, Windsor Fashions, and Signet Jewelers.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) stated that some stores that started online are planning to open brick-and-mortar shops this year. One example is Wayfair, a home goods retailer, which will open three stores in Massachusetts. The NRF also noted that stores that suffered much during the early part of the pandemic are recovering. For instance, Toys “R” Us opened a flagship store inside the American Dream mall and will open 400 toy sections within Macy’s stores.

The revitalization of retail shops is aligned with the 3.8 percent increase in overall retail sales in January compared to December, as reported by The New York Times. This was higher than the two percent increase expected by economists. According to the NRF, data from Forrester’s research shows that by 2024, physical stores in the U.S. will have reclaimed 72 percent of retail sales.

There is a flurry of activity in store openings. Many commercial spaces that were previously vacated and left idle are once again filled with construction equipment with paint overspray protective sheeting and other protective accessories. Store designers are outdoing each other in styling these spaces.

Smiling Mature Woman Florist Small Business Flower Shop Owner. She is using her telephone and laptop to take orders for her store. Shallow Focus.

Stores Are Different Now

Shoppers have much higher expectations now after having been spoiled by their online shopping experience, where they could conveniently browse through a wide selection of items just swiping and clicking on their smartphones or tablets. What they have missed is being able to touch the products they are interested in and being able to try on clothes and shoes, for instance. Shops must be able to provide these with the same convenience.

Stores that can blend their online and physical stores will have a major advantage. For instance, shoppers can browse online and choose the clothes and shoes they want in the sizes they want to try on. They can then add these to a special cart and schedule a store visit with a specific date and time. The app must relay the information to the store so that the items will be waiting for the customer in a designated fitting room at the appointed date and time.

Brands must also implement the digital experience store-wide. For instance, a customer can read a QR code on an item with a smartphone to see its price, all the currently available sizes and colors, and other items that will go well with it or are like it. The customer can click on an item in the digital store to find a map to where it can be found on the physical store.

Customization, while you wait, is another advantage of the physical store. Stores have already offered simple clothing adjustments such as hemming while you wait. In some stores, such as Nike, you can have your shoes customized while you wait. Stores that can offer even more customization will gain more appreciative customers. Customization can be delivered to their homes for customers who do not wish to wait. The sooner the items can be delivered, the happier customers will be.

After choosing all purchases, the customer should then be able to pay for them online easily and quickly without having to queue before a cashier. Various types of online payment options must be made available. This includes the buy now, pay later option gaining much popularity.

The Physical Experience

While brands must have both a digital and physical store to maximize selling, the brick-and-mortar store’s edge is the buyer’s physical experience. Stores must therefore be designed to heighten this. The NRF notes, for instance, that Dick’s House of Sport has a putting green, a batting cage, and a rock-climbing wall. Next to the store is a field measuring 25,000 square feet that is open to shoppers. The Federation cites research showing that greenery results in shoppers spending up to 25 percent more even in stores not related to sports. Stores must be places where shoppers want to stay in.

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