By Marco Passoni
As we settle into this ‘new normal’ we have created – and found – in the wake of the pandemic, one thing has become very clear: Despite the rise in importance of digital while we were all in lockdown, physical stores are here to stay in the retail world. To me, it is laughable that anyone really thought this would go away.
The increased immersion and experience which is available online makes touch and the physical experience more important for young shoppers in the market today. They can see and experience so much online, but they want the same in the physical realm. This is especially true for retail, where they are investing their time and emotion into something real.
The increased immersion and experience which is available online makes touch and the physical experience more important for young shoppers in the market today
This trend is very evident today in the USA, which is a benchmark for much of the future of retail and travel retail – and a location where many stakeholders are currently met for the Summit of the Americas. A recent report by Bain & Co shows that physical retail currently accounts for more than a third of spend by Millennial and Gen Z shoppers. Obliviously the numbers are higher for. More established shoppers, but this is an impressive share for digital natives.
The truth is that the physical retail experience has many advantages for digitally-enabled consumers. Alongside the ease and speed of browsing, it offers an excitement and engagement which is a whole new experience if you spend most of your time online. More than a third – about 36% in fact – of Gen Z and Millennial shoppers say they expect to spend more in stores in the future.
This is great news for the long-term potential of physical retail, but it also comes with a warning: for their desire to spend more online to be realised, they must enjoy the experience. This means retail spaces must be exciting and carefully curated to bring the brand to life and create something memorable for visitors.
The truth is that the physical retail experience has many advantages for digitally-enabled consumers
As often mentioned, the experiences must be personal and offer something new; they must also seamlessly link with the online world that the shoppers already know. A true omnichannel experience is vital – and it must be fun. The new Tommy Hilfiger digital mirror is a great example. This allows shoppers to try on garments from the brand’s Shawn Mendes collection using 3D body tracking.
Services such as this will let shoppers access products online and then take those choices into the store for a more enhanced experience. Once they have tried them on using the mirror, they can touch and feel them in-store.
The other vital thing about physical retail is the human touch. This is what sets the shop experience apart. We at 2.0 & Partners recently worked alongside our partners at Bologna Airport to deliver staff training to help ensure the experience is perfect for all consumers. The personal experience is something no digital retail platform can match.
There is no doubt that physical retail is here to stay, but we must be careful to ensure it evolves in line with the expectation of our shoppers. That is the real future of our market.