What is a retail store? It may come as a surprise, but to most consumers, a ‘store’ still means a brick-and-mortar, physical shop. Even through 2020 and 2021 — with multiple lockdowns and ongoing COVID restrictions — in the minds of most consumers, the definition of what a store is has not evolved to include online retail.
According to a recent Shopify survey, 77% of Australians still associate shopping with a physical store. So, while there’s undoubtedly been an online shopping boom over the past 18 months, the survey results suggest that for many shoppers, this is largely due to necessity and has not made a lasting impact on their preferences or perceptions.
That’s not to say a brand’s digital presence isn’t important. 83% of survey respondents said that a brand should have an online store. But it appears that for many shoppers, digital stores are used predominantly in the discovery and consideration phases (47% said they discover brands online through searches and websites), with bricks-and-mortar still coming up trumps when it comes to making a purchase. Indeed, 18% of respondents said they were wary of making a purchase when they couldn’t physically touch the object with 12% still concerned about giving credit card details over the internet.
So, what’s the best strategy for retail stores and brands trying to navigate the current environment? The advice (even from Shopify’s APAC managing director Shaun Broughton) is to adopt an omnichannel approach with your marketing. The shopping experience for most people involves digital and physical touchpoints and to neglect either, or think of them as separate, can be detrimental to your bottom line.
What the Shopify survey tells us loud and clear is that while digital channels are increasingly becoming a part of how we search, discover and communicate, we ultimately crave physical experiences. It’s because of this that, when it comes to buying physical goods, the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience is always going to be more appealing for most people. People trust what they can see, feel and touch.
While physical retail has undeniably had a rough time of it over the past months, we have come through it. And, perhaps now more than ever, it’s plain to see that the immersive brand experience that can only be found by walking into a store and interacting with staff and products is, for the foreseeable future, always going to be the best way to keep your brand in the front of your customer’s mind.