04.29.2019 By: Frank Grillo

The Purpose of the Store is in the Eye of the Shopper

Author: Frank Grillo

In January, a blog post from RR Donnelley, “4 Retail Trends Refining the In-Store Experience in 2019” calls out some of the continuing trends in retail. I want to take an opportunity to comment on two items they called out that specifically relate to the in-store shopping. They are Immersive Experiences and Convenience.

On the surface, those two can seem polar opposites. Immersive experience evokes the idea of a lengthy engagement that is more focused on the “journey” than on the “destination.”  In the shopping world, convenience is very often a synonym for quick. Based on those two divergent definitions, they are in fact opposites.

However, based on how customers want to use the store, they are actually shoulder-to-shoulder partners.

At its most functional level, customers have come to use brick-and-mortar locations for one or more of three functions: learning, transacting, and fulfilling. The latter two are very convenience focused, the former is very immersive.

We’re all familiar with these uses, browse and buy online, then drive to a store and be met outside with your package and the store is a fulfillment center. Visit Best Buy, browse for a flat screen, purchase it and then have it delivered. The store was there to learn and transact, but you didn’t want to haul home the 72” screen TV.

The important concept for retailers to embrace is that the customer will decide how they want to use the physical store, and each customer will make that decision based on their own criteria. The first may want an immersive experience for purchasing product A and the second may want a convenient/efficient experience for purchasing the exact same item. The successful retailer will know that both experiences are needed and will design their stores in a way to accommodate both the “immersive” and the “convenience” shoppers.

As Donnelley notes in their piece in some ways this is turning store design upside. Convenience translates to moving transactional areas, like the return counter, to the front of the store.  And immersive experiences require that we think about store layouts not as product presentation but rather as storytelling.

These are not mutually exclusive in any way; they are symbiotic, and the best retailers will excel in redesigning their stores to fulfill whatever journey the customer is on at the moment.

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