There’s value in raw data, but it can only take you so far. The true value of those numbers materializes through analysis, anomalies and context. Due to the lack of available real data about shoppers who shopped both on a brand’s digital online site and at its physical retail store, BHDP Architecture (Cincinnati) initiated research to learn more about shoppers’ online and retail store behaviors. The data we uncovered offers both “Clicks to Bricks” (C2B) and traditional retailers invaluable insights into the behaviors of these shoppers.
BHDP engaged an independent, online market research firm, to gather input from 1000 shoppers on their online and in-store experiences between February and March 2020. The C2B brands included for this research were Adore Me, Alex and Ani, Allbirds, Athleta, Blue Nile, Bonobos, Casper, Everlane, Glossier, Indochino, Thirdlove, Untuckit and Warby Parker. Select data from this survey was published in an earlier piece. Below you’ll find the analysis of that data and recommendations for C2B retailers that are considering opening a physical retail store as well as insights for traditional retailers.
Analysis of Findings
Despite the ease of purchasing online, many shoppers still want the option of visiting a brick-and-mortar location. In fact, shoppers are willing to travel a significant distance to enjoy the in-store experience. One significant factor for the in-store experience is being able to see and touch the merchandise as well as being able to take items home immediately. One shopper stated, “I was able to see the quality of the merchandise. I was able to have a worry-free buying experience.”
The in-store experience provides the opportunity to build brand loyalty and shopper connection through engagement with real people. Ideally these people were trained to provide a more intimate and personal customer service experience as opposed to an impersonal online interaction. Comments from shoppers concluded they expected great customer service, employee recommendations and personal touches when shopping in the online brand’s retail stores.
When shoppers were asked what their expectations were for brick-and-mortar stores originating from online-only brands, the word “service” was used 157 times – one of the most frequently used terms from respondents. The ability to order from the online site while in the physical retail store was important to 58 percent of respondents, reinforcing the preference for personal service and “virtual” immediate gratification.
However, shoppers are unhappy with the limited assortment of product in C2B stores. Many shoppers in this survey stated that the in-store experience did not match the online experience because the retail stores did not have the same product availability as online sites. Shoppers expect there to be as much or nearly as much product available in store as there is online. “They sometimes don’t have my size in stock at the stores,” said one shopper.
This lack of product availability has significant ramifications on the design of C2B retail stores. The first impression is critical in retail. Because most C2B retail stores are smaller than traditional stores and unable to display the brand’s entire product line, it is important for store designers to impress shoppers quickly with an enhanced in-store experience. A worst-case scenario for retailers is when shoppers leave their stores disappointed or frustrated. In this case, it is unlikely the shopper will return to the store – another reason why an enhanced in-store experience is so important. It reassures shoppers that in-store experiences are worth the effort and strengthen brand loyalty. Finally, many shoppers stated they shopped online after purchasing from the retail store, indicating that a positive in-store experience drives awareness and online business.
C2B retailers are seeking guidance on how to design a brick-and-mortar space that satisfies their shoppers’ needs without following the traditional retail store model. They also want to ensure survival in a competitive, saturated and constantly evolving retail landscape. Consider these recommendations as a roadmap for DTC brands moving to the C2B retail model:
- Listen to and understand what shoppers like and expect from the online experience.
- Develop solid strategies to design retail stores that ensure uniformity between the online and in-store experiences to reinforce their brand.
- Identify brick-and-mortar locations that meet the retailer’s specifications in areas where the target audience shops.
- Delight shoppers with their initial in-store experience.
Consistency is important. There should not be a disconnect between the online brand shoppers fall in love with and the C2B retail space. Instead, C2B retailers should create a seamless transition from online to in-store shopping by designing the physical space to reflect the feel of the online shopping experience. This is accomplished by C2B brands knowing their shoppers and recognizing their unmet needs and frustrations. One shopper, commenting on the decor and aesthetics of the retail store and how it positively reflected the online brand experience stated, “It felt like a candy shop, the feeling you get visually by looking at the website.”
C2B shoppers want the opportunity to touch and feel the products and leave the store with product in hand, or ordered with free shipping if the product is not available in store. “There has to be a big reason for me to go into the store. Probably the ability to try things on in many sizes/styles and get customer service when needed,” stated one shopper.
To strengthen the in-store experience, C2B retailers should consider offering:
- Professional and personal customer service and one-on-one consultative help.
- The ability for shoppers to order online while in the retail store.
- The ability to observe the entire product line via display technologies to compensate for smaller product assortments in store.
Additionally, providing the convenience of in-store returns for online orders provides another touchpoint for retailers to make a positive impression and another opportunity for additional in-store purchases. When C2B retailers can translate the retail brand experience to align with their customers’ expectations, they can deliver more creative, innovative and engaging environments that build loyalty and generate increased revenue – both online and in store.
Declan McCormack, RDI, has more than 25 years of retail expertise including branding, strategy, design, and implementation. Starting his career in London, he has managed projects internationally and worked with global brands. He is passionate about all things retail and serves as primary client contact and team leader for BHDP’s Retail Market group. As President of the Ohio Chapter of the Retail Design Institute, Declan shares his passion for the industry with other design professionals and retailers. For more information, contact Declan McCormack at DMcCormack@bhdp.com, visit bhdp.com or call 513-271-1634.