What Can Stores Do That Amazon Can’t?
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During a time when visiting stores was not an option, consumers switched to eCommerce – and Amazon.com, in particular. But one other thing that the COVID-19 lockdown brought to light was just how much people need to get out of their homes and to interact with one another, with their surroundings, and yes – with products. One of the greatest surprises revealed to many in 2020 and 2021 was just how much people missed stores.
For many retailers, this has been something of a revelation – or at the very least, affirmation that – for now, at least – there’s an opportunity to leverage the one thing that Amazon doesn’t yet have. Stores.
Past years’ RSR benchmarks on the state of the store have delved into how retailers are using their stores to differentiate. That kind of differentiation has moved from important to an imperative. Some of the highlights that we find in this year’s research, which just released last week, are as follows:
- When asked about the current state of stores, 91% of retailers agree that the role of the store has changed significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic; 93% say that customers are increasingly using their own technology (their semi-permanently attached smartphones) while shopping in stores.
- At the same time, 95% of retailers say customers still love to browse stores. When taken in combination, this data highlights why store-based retailers believe they can and will continue to compete in what is rapidly becoming Amazon’s world.
- When asked what would help make stores more of a destination for shoppers, retailers’ #1 answer is “more digital interaction with consumers while they are in the store via their smartphones.” This is starkly different from current reality, as consumers regularly indicate in our research that they’d much rather pull out their phone while shopping (to get product details, availability, pricing, reviews, etc.) – and retailers tell us they know this to be true. The fact that retailers believe that these very same smartphones will become the catalyst that brings the store back into the fight, is astounding. Is it optimistic? We think so.
- Retailers are particularly vexed by the amount of returns coming into their stores from online orders. What they are choosing to do with those returns varies heavily based on product type and the brand’s overall sales performance.
- When it comes to the technologies that retailers say can help, Winners have a much bigger appetite for new in-store fulfillment solutions (82% vs 64% of average retailers), enhanced employee mobile communications (74% to 40%), and systems that can help with the increasingly difficult employee scheduling and task management (72% vs average retailers’ 52%). Winners understand that physical stores have a here-and-now opportunity to continue to evolve as a critical component of differentiation from eCommerce pureplays, and that those not taking risks will not be around to lament their inaction.
If you haven’t read the full report yet, you should. It’s available here for free to all.