Here’s an experiment: head to Google and search for “retail is dead.”
What do you see? Stories about Toys R Us, Sears, and Payless, combined with waves of store closures, have turned the discussion about the future of retail into a conversation with a foregone conclusion. People believe the age of retail has ended because that’s what they expect to see. What they don’t realize is that retail is not dead — it’s evolving into something new.
Retailers are not blind to the pressures they face from ecommerce. On the contrary, technological advancements and innovations from other industries have driven retailers to come up with new and better experiences to address the needs of modern shoppers. The better a retailer understands its customers, the more relevant experiences that a retailer can provide.
We wanted to learn the truth about the future of retail, free from preconceived ideas about its future. So, we conducted a survey of 1,000 American consumers in January 2020 to ask them about their habits, preferences, and expectations regarding in-store and online retail experiences. What we discovered painted an interesting picture about the future of retail:
- Of respondents aged 18 to 34, 55% prefer to shop online, while 57.5% of those over 35 prefer to shop at physical locations.
- People of all ages who prefer shopping online name convenience as their primary motivator. For young people, access to discount codes came second at 23.3%, while older shoppers enjoy the ease of price comparison (11.2%) and transaction speed (10.9%)
- People who prefer to shop at physical locations name the ability to see and touch products as their primary differentiator (40.3%), followed closely by an enjoyable shopping experience (38.4%).
- For men, the shopping experience (44%) is more important than the ability to see and touch products (23.4%). Women feel differently, with 45.7% prioritizing the physical presence of products and 34.6% preferring the experience.
- People shop online more than they used to. In our survey, 47.6% of respondents had increased their online spending, with only 16.5% saying their spending had decreased.
- Some people shop less in physical stores, but most shop the same amount (43.7%).
- The omnichannel experience is critical, especially regarding price comparisons. More than 68% of respondents had searched for a better price online after finding a product at a physical store.
- Most people appreciate human customer service reps, with 62.4% finding store associates helpful.
- 68.9% of people said a good in-store experience is either important or very important to them.
- Price remains king, but experiences provide differentiation. While 56.6% of respondents said they would shop more at physical locations for exclusive discounts not available online, 22.8% said they would shop more if store owners provided unique experiences.