There have been industry reports swirling for years that storefront numbers are decreasing and consumer retail is moving to a new address: The Internet. While we have all seen the rapid expansion of e-commerce, we don’t think we should be preparing brick and mortar’s grave just yet. Hear us out on this:
There is no question that a 24-7-365 online shop with a worldwide reach and reduced overhead is an enticing, straightforward way to bring a retailer’s products to a broader audience. It is also a fact that consumers want to order paper towels while walking down the hall. They also want to make that impulse gadget purchase at midnight on a Friday after a few cocktails. Our argument is that while we are probably all too familiar with those inclinations, there exists an interesting paradox within today’s consumer. It is this dichotomy of belief that we believe gives the breath of life to B&M retailers of pretty much any size.
Yes, today’s consumer wants convenience. The advancements made in the retail e-commerce space in the last decade have been monumental. But in the same breath that today’s consumer rattles off all of the advantages and convenience (and fun) of a service like Amazon Prime, they are also touting the importance of a customized experience.
Today’s consumer expects more from “their” brands. Shoppers want to interact with brands with clear values and a great story. They expect the retail environment to be welcoming, engaging, and to an extent, comforting. Today’s consumer feels very strongly about the brands with which they choose to engage. They are totally disengaged from brands that do not (from their perspective) put enough weight on customer experience.
All of that said, if we take our very simplistic paper towel example to conclusion: it may seem convenient for consumers to order paper towels on the go, but if they find themselves out of paper towels these very same consumers will drive past countless drug stores, gas stations, dollar stores, and even grocery stores, to visit a retailer where they feel comfortable, connected, respected, and appreciated.
So it really isn’t all about convenience, is it?