There’s no denying the facts – data tells us that more and more people are on their smartphones to mine the news for the latest prices of their favourite products, read reviews and ultimately shop for their favourite products online.
A study by Bigcommerce revealed that over half of the American population prefer to shop online, with a whopping 96% of those surveyed saying that they’ve bought something online. That’s 4% shy of 100%, people. So, does this spell the death of retailers?
While it is hard to deny that malls are seeing a smaller number of footfalls over the years, reports from the business world show that it is NOT the death of the industry but a loud, roaring call for action.
Are we overestimating consumer fidelity to mall-crawl weekends and personalised shopping experiences?
This call to action is meant to appeal to retailers and brick and mortar stores so that plans can be promptly put into place to ramp up marketing, provide better customer experience, and fill in the gaping holes that were ignored before.
Although 67% of Millennials report that they prefer to shop online rather than walking into a store to buy their everyday stuff, shopping malls continue to thrive in this day and age.
Going that Extra Mile for World-Class First-Hand Retail Experience
This is one for those who are in the clothing, garment, decor, furniture, and personalised items industry. No IKEA can beat this because we’ve all probably been there before, purchasing something online or on our smartphone only to be disappointed by the product when the delivery guy gets here.
Par for the course, e-commerce sites now have the ability to provide detailed measurements, zoom-in tools, user reviews, stunning videos, useful demos, and solid return policies but nothing beats being able to try on the clothes in a fitting room before parting with our hard-earned cash. Seeing it in front of you in the clothes rack will, one way or the other, beat seeing it under the ‘Trending’ or ‘Most Popular’ scroll bar on an app.
Some consumers have also expressed discontent in the descriptions of colour and sizes in an app store compared to what they receive in the mail. Hot pink is not baby pink. What’s seen as ‘white’ on an RGB monitor might appear to be a few shades off when placed in your living room.
Yes, over 70% of consumers might be inclined to complete the purchase on an app or webstore if there was a video or good reviews, but many industry observers argue that first-hand experience beats them hands down.
Offering the Personal, Human Touch in your Retail Outlet
A picture may tell a thousand words but nothing beats being able to run your hand over the hardwood furniture or marble tiles before deciding to invest on them. Being able to test out kitchen appliances before paying for them at the counter will also leave you less infuriated. And if someone’s planning to buy a vacuum cleaner, you can provide zippy service with a quick demonstration.
So, while e-commerce businesses are still punching in the numbers in an effort to enhance consumer shopping experience through their apps and online stores, retail outlets, showrooms and malls retain their position. AND we should do everything we can to wring it for what it’s worth by providing top quality customer touch-points whenever we can.
Provide the Comfy In-Store Ambiance Consumers Seek
In most countries, studies show that the shopping mall industry is still far from being in its twilight hour. Only approximately 10% of businesses have their businesses running on an e-commerce platform completely.
Everyone single one of us has, at least, one favorite mall that we frequent. THE place we meet up with friends for coffee and cakes. THE mall we visit when we’re running out of butter and soy sauce.
Until and unless e-commerce and apps can find a way to replace the experience of shoppers being physically present with their friends or chatting with the salesperson about which angel figurine sitting on the shelves is prettier, it’s hard to completely replace the mall-crawl experience with online shopping.
Shopping malls and their retail outlets are no longer just a place designed purely for shopping. Instead, it offers an umbrella of experiences for visitors with their indoor theme parks, arcade game centers, spas, cafes, and co-working spaces.
So, yes, e-commerce is on the rise, it is a hard-to-deny fact, but we, humans, still have our habit-worn ideals of using all of our five senses to experience a product or scout out services before signing on the dotted line. Shopping malls and retail outlets provide us with the all-essential final litmus test experience before every purchase that is still hard to replicate in the digital world.
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Will Customer Service be Replaced by Robots?
If you’ve ever had a chat with a chatbot, you’ll know what the experience feels like. AWK…WARD…even speaking to Siri or Galaxy gives us a somewhat out-of-body experience.
Using an e-commerce platform or our online presence can, however, provide a launchpad to delve into deeper conversations, gather data, read reviews, and initiate offline communication with real people IRL.
More and more retail outlets and shopping malls are undergoing some form of evolution to offer a more comprehensive experience for their customers, be it delivery after shopping or taking online orders in person. Providing quality customer service is not science but it is a trainable skill.
Being able to connect to a real person remains high on the list of priorities for shoppers. Even with that said, it is quite unusual for a major retailer to not have an internet presence these days, whether it is a Facebook account or a full-on 24/7 online store. In order to remain competitive in 2019 and the coming years, the divide between digital and human realms are quickly merging and we need to keep the ball in the air to remain in the game.
And if you’re a retail business owner, it’s heartening to know that with personal attention and service, customers tend to spend up to 6 times more than they would have if they were browsing through an online store.
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Beat The Risk and Regret of Reckless Online Purchases
This goes without saying but consumers don’t mind the risk of buying something tacky, fake, or of low quality online from an e-commerce store. But when it comes to something more functional, lasting and costs more, they prefer to purchase it in-store.
With online shopping, we’re basically taking a guess and a gamble that it will be what it says it is. AND, to add salt to the wound, we have to wait a few weeks to find out about it. NOT. IDEAL.
If the product turns out to be inadequate, then we might yield ourselves to it being a ‘big mistake’ and discard the item without so much as a second look, albeit with much self-berating. We would then never shop at the online store again and forget about it until it becomes a distant memory.
What’s encouraging is the fact that more retail outlets are investing funds in better logistics and consumer experience. There’s a major boom in the storage and shipping industry right now, thanks to the mushrooming of online stores, and conventional retailers should hop on the same bandwagon too.
Some innovative storefronts display a small number of products in their storage space and yet allow their customers to make instant purchases on-the-spot (via cards, apps, Paypal accounts, and smartphones) then have it delivered to the customers’ homes at a predetermined date and time. It saves the retail outlets space and manpower while customers love the fact that there is no need to lug their bulky new couches or bookshelf home themselves.
Boost Personal Attention to Enhance the Shopping Experience
Companies that train their sales force to enhance relationship-based retail instead of one-off business transactions stand to win in the near future. People are tired with sub-par customer service not when they can get better service (via online chat, instant messaging, email and phone call) with an e-commerce store.
They’re looking for that waitress with that brilliant smile, extra clean plates, instantly refilled drinks, the immaculate decor, samples, and the manager who is pedantic about your in-store experience.
So, if you want to beat the beast, pay extra attention to providing your customers with exemplary shopping experiences and you’ll be moving the needle in the right direction.
It may seem like a smackdown between brick-and-mortar businesses and e-commerce stores in the next few years, but there ARE loopholes that an online store can’t seem to fill right now, and if you’re a retail store, doing everything to fill in the gaps should top your list of priorities to keep your loyal customers by engaging them without pushing them into corners.
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