Is bricks and mortar retail dead? The Future of Retail 2022

So are bricks and mortar retail stores dead?


They’re thriving. 

In a world where consumers crave experiential shopping, there’s a new era for retail on the horizon, and it’s more innovative than ever. 

Why do shoppers still prefer bricks and mortar?

At face value, you might be forgiven for thinking the bricks and mortar retail experience is on its way out. But look again and you’ll see continued investment and focus on future-proofing the real-life experience of shopping as a means to drive consumer advocacy and engagement and ultimately preference.

So while it may seem like retail has all but shifted into the digital ecommerce world, many retailers are continuing to build and innovate their in store shopping experiences.

Here, we explore five key areas in which retailers can continue to drive in store experiences, stay connected with consumers and create preference amongst existing and new customers.

1. Community: The pleasure of celebrating and supporting like-minded people.

In store experiences bring people together, and for retailers this means showing that they understand the likes, wants and needs of their consumers. 

This feeling of belonging is one of the four factors of motivation that our Preference process draws on. For retailers, or any brand, it’s possible to appeal to a customer’s innate desire to feel like they are part of a community, similar to a tribe or a movement.

This is demonstrated really well by Ikea’s Home Experience of Tomorrow store. Described as an “innovative concept centred around enabling people to live a better and healthier life within the limits of the planet”, the store will focus on “emotional and empowering customer experiences” that include guided explorations of new home furnishing trends, a centre dedicated to sustainable living with workshops and knowledge sharing, and even a creativity hub for visitors can play, connect and recharge. 

Ikea - Shangahi Home experience of tomorrow

2. Convergence: Physical, digital and social integration.

The idea of making your brand or store easier to transact with is one of the three ways we help brands become the preferred choice. 

The tool we use to work out how to make it easier for customers to buy is our METRIC System. It’s built on years of behavioural research and experiments, and simplifies how to influence behaviour at the point of purchase into six METRICs. 

A great example of Effort (the E of METRIC) being reduced to make it easier for customers to shop is at Amazon Fresh. The “Just Walk Out” technology ensures shoppers are automatically charged for their groceries, to their Amazon account, once they walk out the store. So you don’t need to queue or pay at a till. This use of tech to provide frictionless experiences are further evidence that bricks and mortar stores matter, the tech merely enhances the experience for the customer and consequently helps drive commercial growth. 

Another example is SKIP, who initially supplied self-check machines to small, independent stores. But it has now developed a mobile checkout app that lets shoppers scan and check out directly on their phones. Super-quick, and super-easy. 

Skip - check out on your phone

3. Curation: Consumers want help and inspiration.

Retail spaces can often become places where choice overload pervades. In scenarios where there is too much choice on display, people tend to switch off and put off making any decision at all.  

To make this behaviour less likely to happen, retailers with a store space can curate products in ways that make them easier to search, engage with, try and buy. 

Behaviourally, this approach is similar to the point above about removing the physical effort from the search and select process.

This method of curation is really well exemplified by Nike and their ID range of trainers. To avoid falling into the trap of this process being a series of complex, hard to make choices Nike has introduced AR in store, allowing consumers to visualise trainers. Choosing the right design and trainer has suddenly become so much simpler and more engaging!

The fact Nike has involved new-age tech to do this is evidence that this will be more and more common in the future, as retailers use their bricks and mortar spaces to become destinations for easier exploration and evaluation. 

Another interesting development comes from Lowe’s in the USA. The retailer has introduced Lowebot’s. Autonomous robots that roam the store and ask customers simple questions to find out what they’re looking for. The robots can provide directions and maps to products and share specialty knowledge with customers. LoweBots also monitor inventory so the store knows what items need to be restocked.

Nike - Buy You. Customisation

4. Convenience: Why wait 5 minutes when you can have it in an instant.

The retail experience isn’t always about dwell time and having a browse at your leisure. Depending on the context of a consumer’s reason for shopping, it can be  all about getting the consumer what they want in the easiest and fastest way possible.

Co-op’s partnership with Starship Technologies ensures customers get their groceries delivered by the delivery robot company in as little as 20 minutes, with a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions. 

Click & Collect and Returns are two fantastic opportunities for bricks and mortar stores to make meaningful impacts on shoppers who may not otherwise visit the store. 

The balance between convenience and experience is a tough one for retailers to manage though. John Lewis positions its Click and Collect area on the edge of the store with parking immediately outside. But what if it was placed in the centre of the store, so customers had to work past everything being inspired and motivated as to what they see and hear? 

More and more retailers are promoting free returns but only when products are brought back to the store. While this is a fleeting experience of the retail space, the lead up to the visit can set the tone for the rest of the experience. So, even if part of the future is to accept less dwell time in retail environments, retailers need to ensure the consumer’s post-visit experience is rewarding, and therefore motivates them to return.

Co-op and Starship Technologies

5. Consumption: Using the power of senses to create memorable shopping experiences.

We’ve all heard the old trick that homeowners do when trying to make their home more appealing to potential buyers; make it smell of coffee or freshly baked bread. The same applies to retail spaces too. It’s about experimenting with creating an atmosphere through everything from scents and sounds to interactivity.

Scent marketing is becoming more and more popular. Research has shown it raises store sales by 11% and increases customer satisfaction by 20%.

IKEA has aligned taste to its brand, with 30% of people saying they visited a store purely to eat. And the restaurants provide opportunities to diversify sales, not only food but other homeware products as well. 

Pets at Home designed its flagship store to be a multifunctional discovery, interactive and learning space. Great effort was put into making it relevant to audiences of all ages, who were able to immerse themselves in branded content that they could not access anywhere but in the store. 

Apple stores have always had sensory interaction as a primary goal, and the brand remains right at the forefront of immersive retail spaces. The attraction of seeing and experiencing all the Apple products for yourself is incredibly alluring, and is a brilliantly successful way to create preference and drive sales. 

 It’s important to not ignore the demands of the modern consumer. The future of retail is all about experience, consumers expect to be wowed, but it’s up to brands how they make an impact on their audience through bricks and mortar.

Pets at Home - immersive consumption

Get ahead of the competition

To help you and your team navigate the tricky process of optimising bricks and mortar retail experiences, book a workshop today.

These collaborative sessions are designed to help you find the opportunities to make your audience prefer you and your store over the competition, and uncover the moments in the customer journey where you could win or lose the battle for preference.

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We’re The Behaviours Agency.

At every stage of the customer journey we find creative ways to give our clients the advantage. We do it by creating preference.

Preference is being ahead of the competition in the customer’s mind. That means being more motivating, more top-of-mind and easier to choose.

If you want help being the preferred choice for your customers, get in touch today.

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