Ecommerce is a powerhouse that is gaining speed by the day. Worldwide ecommerce sales are expected to nearly double in the next three years, just as it seems like another brick-and-mortar brand closes its doors every day. Will ecommerce eventually take over physical stores altogether? Not necessarily. Although customers may shift many of their shopping habits online, physical stores will never be completely obsolete. Here are 15 reasons customers will still go to stores in the future.
1. To see products in person. There’s something to be said for physically touching items and seeing them in person. Augmented reality allows customers to see items in their homes or on their bodies virtually, but customers will still want to touch items and get a feel for them in the store.
2. To have items personalized or tailored. Online items are often personalized, but customers may want to take things one step further with in-person tailoring and customization to get the exact right fit.
3. To experience a brand. Many brands are turning their brick-and-mortar stores into experience centers that offer interactive ways to learn about the brand and build relationships. Many experts predict that in coming years, the majority of mall space will be dedicated to experiences. Customers might not enter the store to buy anything, but they will likely come out with a better understanding of the brand.
4. For personal interaction. No matter how much technology we have, humans still crave personal interaction. Shopping in a store allows customers to talk to the employees and other shoppers and get advice about the best products for their lives.
5. To sample new products. There’s a reason everyone loves Costco samples—being able to try a new product is enticing and exciting. Going to the store allows customers to find new items they might not usually purchase, either through displays, sales or samples.
6. For instant access to products. Even the fastest same-day delivery can’t have an item to your house in five minutes. When you need something right away and just can’t wait, physical stores will always come through. This reason for shopping in store will only grow as more stores adopt cashier-less models to get customers in and out even faster.
7. For the social experience. Many people used to love shopping with their friends at the mall. The social aspect of shopping and enjoying time with friends and family can’t be duplicated online. Some customers will go to stores just to be able to spend time with their loved ones.
8. To pick up online orders. Many stores now offer services to buy or reserve an item online and then come to the store to try it on or buy it. This allows for the best of both worlds—quickly getting exactly what you want without having to risk ordering something that doesn’t fit. Customers will continue to go to stores to pick up things they find online.
9. To try on items. Virtual dressing rooms are increasing in popularity, but many consumers still like trying things on in person. This is especially true for special occasion items like wedding dresses and suits. Being able to physically try on an item of clothing can make all the difference in the shopping experience.
10. To browse new items. A major benefit of shopping online is that it makes sorting through items easier, but there’s also something to be said for browsing the racks to find the perfect item. You might not know exactly what you’re looking for until you see it in person.
11. To try before they buy. Instead of having every item available for purchase, many brands are switching to showroom models where customers can try items in person before they buy. This is especially popular with appliances and electronics that customers want to handle and test before they make the purchase.
12. For additional services. Stores aren’t just for shopping anymore. Showroom-style stores are adding additional services to create a destination. Nordstrom Local stores have salons and bars that give customers a reason to come in.
13. To get out of the house. Stepping away from technology can be good for our mental health. Shopping in a store is a great reason to get out of the house and expose yourself to the outside world.
14. To interact with new technology. Stores in the future will be full of new technology. Some customers will go to stores simply to interact with VR, AR or robots.
15. To connect with the online world. Brands are blurring the line between the online and physical experiences. Customers expect a seamless experience between all shopping interactions, and going to the store will act as a way to get the benefits of the online world in real life.
Physical retail stores won’t die, but they will definitely transform in coming years. In order to stay relevant, stores need to adopt new technology, change their offerings and build real relationships with customers.
Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, customer experience futurist and the author of two books including her new “The Customer Of The Future.” Stay in touch with her weekly on her newsletter.