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Top Trends Shaping Your Retail Customer’s In-Store Expectations

Top Trends Shaping Your Retail Customer’s In-Store Expectations

What shoppers expect from a trip to the store has been transformed. The convenience of ecommerce, influence of social media, shopping options accelerated—and made permanent—by the pandemic, and a hyper-connected, on-demand world are just a few contributing factors. Getting the in-store experience right is a tall order for retailers, but the opportunity is enormous: A study by Wharton and Harvard found that a positive in-store experience can create “supercharged” customers who are more loyal and spend 60% more on average.

So, what does it take to not only meet but exceed in-store expectations for today’s shoppers? Let’s break down four consumer trends that retailers with physical stores need to know. Then, download our playbook filled with actionable tips and tactics to seize every opportunity to win over in-store shoppers. 

1. Omnichannel shoppers are more informed

When researching what to buy, retail shoppers do their due diligence. One-third of consumers are spending more time making decisions, considering more brands, and comparing more stores or retailers. And much of this research is done fluidly across channels. 

Omnichannel shopping has become the norm, with 75% of U.S. consumers saying they’re researching and purchasing both in store and online. This is especially true of younger generations, who are two to three times as likely to have shopped using emerging media, like social media or virtual try-on.  

There are three areas where retailers have the best opportunity to stand out in this fragmented journey: price, convenience, and speed. Price is obviously important; 47% of respondents in a study chose “a great price” as the reason they made a purchase. But convenience and speed can be the difference when a customer is deciding between two similar products. Research has shown that nearly 80% of shoppers will go to the store to buy when they have an item they need or want immediately, and 73% say physical stores are part of their primary method for purchasing goods. The closest retail location, convenient fulfillment options, and the ability to take a product home the same day can be crucial for securing a sale.  

Brands can also stand out with quality and shared values. A study found that 60% of consumers said it is important that a retailer’s brand values align with their personal values. 

Shoppers don’t care where they find out about or purchase a product as long as it fulfills their needs. Your brand’s online and physical stores are interchangeable to a shopper, because they’re using both to obtain what they want.

Green background with an image on the left of clothing hanging on a rack and to the right a statistic that reads, '60% of consumers said it is important that a retailer's brand values align with their personal values.'

2. Efficiency and convenience are essential

The more friction a customer encounters, like an item being out of stock or that can’t be shipped to their home, the more likely they’ll be disappointed and take their business elsewhere. The Drum found that 46% of consumers who switched brands in 2022 did so due to product availability. 

 Retailers can start by nailing the interactions that customers expect from a store: flexible checkout and shopping options. At checkout, your point of sale (POS) system needs to work every time. Customers want seamless, trustworthy payment processing that accepts all major card companies as well as digital wallets. You can also explore payment options like “buy now, pay later,” which gives customers who are considering expensive purchases the ability to break payments into manageable installments—a trend that’s rising in popularity. And when items are being scanned at checkout, a customer-facing screen that clearly displays pricing, discounts applied, and receipt delivery options can build trust and transparency and prevent avoidable mistakes. 

Since the pandemic, the speed and convenience of in-store and curbside pick up have become a permanent expectation. A study found a 26% increase in consumers using buy online, pickup in store options in 2022 compared to 2021. And US click-and-collect sales are forecasted to grow 10.1% to reach 109.36 billion dollars in 2024.

 Use the physical store as an extension of your online store, not a separate entity. A unified POS platform that connects in-store and online inventory is a good place to start. By matching the options and efficiency of online shopping with the experiential aspects of your physical store, you’ll be able to offer shoppers the best of both worlds.

Cream background with an image of a POS system and shopping bag on the right and a fact on the left that states, 'Consumers using buy online, pickup in store options increased by 26% from 2021 to 2022.'

3. Shoppers want personalized experiences

After decades of experience with online shopping, modern shoppers are accustomed to retailers knowing what they like. Seventy-three percent of shoppers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations. And today’s shoppers expect the same personalized experience when they head to the store.

Shoppers want that personal touch—the ability to consult a knowledgeable sales associate who can quickly understand their needs. A study found that 83% of customers say they want their shopping experience to be personalized in some way, and the same research suggests that effective personalization can increase store revenues by 20–30%. 

 The challenge facing retailers with physical stores is when shoppers start their journey online and then continue to the store. Retailers that connect their customer data between online and physical stores are able to anticipate what a customer is looking for, make informed recommendations, and tailor the experience to the individual. A unified view of your customers’ data also ensures your membership and loyalty programs are synced between your online store and in-store POS system.

The Essential In-Store Playbook

Discover in-depth tactics for creating convenient and memorable in-store customer experiences.

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Brick-and-mortar stores are excellent channels for collecting valuable first-party data from customers. Face-to-face interactions with staff at checkout or on the sales floor provide opportunities to enroll customers in loyalty programs and marketing communications. This in turn gives retailers the insights they need to provide even more personalized and exceptional customer service, ultimately increasing customer lifetime value and allowing you to be more efficient with your digital ad spend.

But keep in mind that customers are wary about sharing their personal information due to data breaches and spam. The sign-up process needs to be hassle-free and frictionless and there must be a value exchange for the customer, such as access to discounts or special events. Most importantly, retailers need a system designed for security and privacy that your customers can trust.

Image with a green background and on the left is a woman helping another woman check out with a POS system and a fact on the right that reads, '83% of customers say they want their shopping experience to be personalized in some way.'

4. Brand experiences drive connection and loyalty

Customers want to do business with retailers who share their passions and values. The in-store experience is where brands can showcase their unique identity and personality. A report found that purpose-driven consumers (consumers who choose brands based on how well those brands align with their values) now represent 44% of global consumers and across all major product categories. How brands demonstrate their values in real life, from sustainability initiatives to supporting philanthropic causes, can go a long way to building brand loyalty.

 Arguably the greatest advantage a physical store has over its online competitors is the experiential factor: to test products and enjoy some leisure time. A survey found that 82% of customers want to touch and feel a product before they decide to buy it, and 35% of shoppers say they choose to go to a store because it’s more fun than shopping online. A buzzy, immersive atmosphere simply can’t be recreated online—that’s a leg up that retailers can’t afford to overlook.

Make the most of your brick and mortar

The store is no longer just a physical place that sells things. It’s an omnichannel fulfillment center, a brand marketing channel, an experiential center, and a place to learn more about and connect with your customers. Find ways to remove common pain points at checkout, offer flexible shopping options, and personalize customer store visits via a unified commerce platform. Then, think about how you can design your stores to let customers experience your brand (and products) in real life. A successful in-store experience can mean the difference between a one-off purchase and making a new customer for life.

Want even more tactics for delivering exceptional in-store customer experiences?

Download ‘The Essential In-Store Playbook: 5 Tactics for Seamless and Memorable Customer Experiences’

Download Now

This article originally appeared on Shopify Retail Blog and is available here for further discovery.
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