At a recent virtual event for the retail industry, one of the participants from China mentioned an interesting paradox. They noted that their brick-and-mortar customers were spending on average much less time in the store yet were spending more money while they were there. The store team concluded that their customer must be researching online first in order to minimize the amount of time they need to spend in the store itself.
Maximizing both online and offline to fuel each other has become one of the top priorities of retailers today. A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that “while e-commerce will continue to be an essential element of retail strategy, the future success of retailers will ultimately depend on creating a cohesive customer experience, both online and in stores.” While ecommerce sales will continue to grow, Euromonitor research indicates that 78 percent of all purchases will still be made in-store by 2024. Google’s own research “shows the pandemic has made people more flexible about whether they buy online or offline” with 73 percent of people in their study saying they are channel-agnostic, compared with 65 percent pre-pandemic. How can retailers be prepared for this new “phygital” world that we are all living in today?
Offering services and experiences that cannot be had online is one way to win. As Business of Fashion noted in “Reinventing Luxury for the Post-Pandemic Era,” stores in China are (not surprisingly) ahead of this curve. The writer said that “providing a special experience that cannot be had online is…becoming increasingly important.” By utilizing algorithms, social commerce, and WeChat to personalize and drive the experiences, many brands in China offer customers everything from hyper-personalized fragrance recommendations, pre-booked fitting rooms, and reserved tables at the in-store café to entice them back into the stores.