How brick-and-mortar stores need to evolve for the tech-savvy millennial shopper
When online shopping came into the picture, many predicted death chimes for brick-and-mortar stores. The comfort of shopping from mobile apps and websites from anywhere anytime was a big respite for the time-crunched millennial shoppers. Moreover, for the price-sensitive shoppers, heavy discounts and coupons worked wonders. However, regardless of the convenience, millennials are still loyal to physical stores. In fact, these young consumers quite enjoy the in-store shopping experience.
So, what exactly do millennials want?
Millennials are extremely savvy customers considering that the online channels provide them information they need, and are vying for their attention so that they end up accessing the best products and services. In fact, many of them polish their shopping skills online by surfing through the product ratings, reviews, and feedback to choose the vendors that provide the best value and service.
However, this doesn’t stop them from frequenting brick-and-mortar venues simply because they also want to touch and feel the product prior to purchasing.
When it comes to shopping, millennials are looking for a unified and seamless experience across multiple channels—brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce platforms, or mobile apps. That means being able to effortlessly transition from smartphones and laptops to physical stores in their pursuit for the best products and services.
The level of experience and excitement these millennial customers are expecting now is the new norm even for retail brands in Tier-II/III/IV cities. As consumers, they have stopped viewing online and offline as separate entities, and are considering various touch-points to interact with a brand: offline, online, mobile, via social media, and much more. Thus, to stay competitive in this retail landscape, it will be important for retailers to find innovative ways to connect with new-age shoppers and engage them as they browse and shop in-store.
Innovative retail formats for physical stores
Millennials tend to make a majority of their choices based on their experience than the product itself. So, retailers must emphasise on developing a customer-centric approach in their business so that consumers can interact with the product or brand and even provide feedback. This will enable retailers to generate better brand recall and escalate their sales. Many retail brands have already started integrating traditional elements with tech-enabled aspects like in-store tabs to add layers and new experiences to their old-fashioned retail models.
Today, online players in fashion & lifestyle and beauty & personal care segments are already acing the game by delivering experience-based shopping through integration of augmented reality and virtual reality. Witnessing their success, offline stores too are following the trend by implementing these immersive technologies to redefine convenience for consumers.
A handful of value retail chains in the country have also started leveraging these technologies to enable the new-age consumers to simply walk in, find their preferred products/outfits through a virtual inventory, and try the outfits via virtual mirror without actually having to do it physically. This is facilitating a seamless retail experience to the consumers even in small towns and cities.
Big data is yet another revolutionary technology that has made its way into the offline retail space to enable businesses to understand their customer expectations by predicting the popularity of products and identifying relevant customers for each.
Brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay…
The retail environment is perhaps changing faster than many companies would have expected in the coming years. It is primarily because companies are constantly making deeper changes across the organisation to deliver products and services in a seamless manner to millennials and the tech-savvy future generations. While the future looks promising, with brick-and-mortar stores having a firm place in the future of shopping, retail businesses will have to actively introduce millennial customers to their products in ways that utilise technology, in order to nurture profound engagement and a more personalised, connected experience.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)