There is something about that feeling of walking into a well lit room surrounded by shiny brand new things. We are talking about a retail store. We both know it well. Today, we refer to stores as brick-and-mortar in relation to eCommerce, but there was a time when this experience defined consumer shopping.
Although, the retail environment today still captures our emotions, makes us feel warm, and gives us a sense of want. The act of shopping itself, the feeling of finding the perfect item, and even the familiar smell of new. Retail still makes an impact on our lives. Just because we have the option to shop online doesn't mean we always will. In fact, "US E-Commerce Sales as 'Percent of Retail Sales' is at a current level of [just] 5.10% for Q2 of 2012," according to YCharts Online. That means 94.9% of us are still shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers. What keeps us there?
Retail Visuals & Experiences
Retail has the advantage of capturing all of a consumer's senses. You can touch, feel, smell, hear, and even taste products while in-store shopping. You can look at many types of items in one store (big box stores, for example) or get very specific (boutiques). Although, across each store we expect to be greeted by an inviting visual display of products that in many ways, tells us what we need.
From impulse shelves near the cashier, to promoted products in their own display area, to discount racks, visual displays tell us how to interact with products at stores.
As a retail sales representative, owning your retail space and display is a big part of sales techniques. Placement in store, signage, and categorization can heavily impact a consumer's purchase decision. Think of how many times you have been in a store aisle but stopped to check out a self-standing display for a new product. Or, on the way to the cashier you see a candy display and decide you need one chocolate bar to go with your purchase. We all do it all the time. It is behavior that has been crafted by sales representatives and retailers. Yet, in many ways we enjoy this experience. It fulfills curiosity and delight of seeing new items that you could possibly own!
Sales representatives spend a lot of time creating their visual displays and in-store tactics. We noticed this when building Salespod [Now Repsly] and decided to create in-app photo sharing between managers and sales representatives. This way reps can ensure consistency, share tactics, and document their work. After all, we are consumers too and we couldn't help but notice how important in-store visuals can be.
This is something many people miss when they look to shop online. In many case, shopping is in fact a social activity. Walking through malls you see groups of friends, couples, families, across all age groups.
Back to the 'experience' of shopping, customer interaction plays a big part in your personal experience. Something retail has excelled at creating, with food courts (even in IKEA), seating areas, and sometimes free amenities like beverages to keep you interacting with each other and products. This is something, we don't think many of us are ready to give up just yet.
We often think that online shopping is more price conscious, but in many situations retailers have competitive pricing that can match up. Okay, there may be a lot of cases where online can be less; but after shipping, wait time, and backorders, sometimes it is just not worth it. We think of 'satisfaction costs' in retail, meaning you leave with the item in hand, knowing it fits or works, knowing very well that you could just turn around and return it if needed without stopping at the post office and repackaging.
In Salespod [Now Repsly], we built in a pricing feature to allow sales representatives to track pricing between stores, competitors, and even check the web to compare while on their mobile. We believe that prices should be competitive for consumers and easy for retailers and sales teams to get right. Afterall, who doesn't love a deal!
All in all, we are still strong supporters of the retail environment. As a software provider, of course we support the innovation behind eCommerce, although as the makers of a software for sales representatives and wholesalers, we haven't forgotten our roots.
Mat Brogie is part of the founding team, and CEO of Repsly, the world's leading solution for high performance retail execution teams. Mat has spent the past 15 years of his career focused on bringing technology enabled business solutions to the consumer goods industry, having implemented solutions for tens of thousands of field reps at companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Pepperidge Farm and hundreds of others.