In-store vs online shopping has undergone a shift over the last year. In-store shopping was the most common method of shopping last year, offering many advantages: in-store staff members, the opportunity to touch or try on items before purchasing, the ability to take items home immediately, easy return policies, and more.
However, the PWC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey1 reveals that despite the popularity of in-store shopping, 54% of shoppers still buy products online weekly or monthly. Online shopping often seems more convenient: you can shop 24/7, you don’t need to travel to a physical store, the check-out process is simplified, and packages are delivered right to your door.
But if we look a bit deeper, what are the reasons for buying online?
- We have access to more choices
- We can compare prices
- We can research the brand
- We have better information about the product
- We can read reviews about the product
In other words, because we have more transparency!
Today, consumers want to have more information on how a product is made (i.e. process and components used), who made the product (i.e. labor conditions), and what are the brand’s values (i.e. employee work conditions, business ethics).
According to the PWC’s 2016 Total Retail Survey1, although price remains the number one driver for where and what shoppers buy, brand trust comes in second. In our experience, brand trust is often linked to the amount of transparency provided. So how do you build trust for your brand and your products?
Leverage social media
We’ve all heard about the power of social media. Social communities provide a wealth of reviews and feedback on a brand or its products. 78% of consumers are influenced by social media in some way or another1, such as writing comments, reading reviews, or viewing advertisements. By sharing user-generated content online—and therefore being transparent on your brand and products—you can build trust and reinforce customer relationships.
Whole Foods, with over 7 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and SlideShare.com, is a good example of a retailer using a social media strategy. Whole Foods shares information on suppliers, farmers, country of origin of the products, product certifications, etc.
Enhance the in-store experience
But while transparency has led to an increase in online shopping, can it also help boost in-store shopping? In recent years, several initiatives have been introduced to bring an element of transparency to the in-store shopping experience. For example, we’ve seen brick-and-mortar stores begin implementing signage that reveals a product’s country of origin, certifications, or producer’s name and location.
In-store staff can also provide even more transparency compared to the online experience; if your staff is well-informed about your products and brand values, they can help convey this message directly to the consumer.
In 2015, Levi’s Strauss & Co launched an in-store clothing recycling program to make it easier for consumers to recycle clothing and shoes from any brand. This initiative, which began in the US, expanded to the UK in 2016 and will roll out to consumers in Europe in 2017. As an incentive to participate in the program, each consumer who brings in an item of clothing to recycle will receive a voucher for 20% off on an in-store item2.
Another method is to leverage mobile devices. 80% of millennials use a mobile device while shopping in-store1 to find digital coupons, read product reviews, and conduct price checks. Customer-facing apps, which are meant to be used in-store, are also becoming more and more popular, enabling brands to share information with their consumers. Digital connectivity is key: according to 22% of respondents1, having easily-accessible Wi-Fi improves their in-store shopping experience.
Mobile application such as Blippar, an augmented reality and visual discovery solution, brings the physical world to life through smart devices. By scanning an item, brands and retailers can interact with consumers by providing further information such as components, fabrication process, social media links, etc.
Bringing more shoppers back into stores depends on retailers. By coming up with innovative ways to enhance the in-store shopping experience—detailed signage, informative mobile apps, well-trained staff, and more transparency in general—they can attract customers back to their stores.
1 PWC Total retail survey 2016. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/retail-consumer/global-total-retail.html
2 LEVI STRAUSS & CO. EXPANDS CLOTHING RECYCLING INITIATIVE TO ALL U.S. STORES. http://www.levistrauss.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ICO-Recycling-Expansion-Release.pdf