The pandemic escalated the rise of e-commerce, from 19.8% in February 2020 (pre-pandemic), to 25.3% in January 2022, but there has been a broad downward trend since its peak in February 2021 (36.5%). To entice customers back into stores, retailers have had to create unique experiences that are unable to be replicated through online shopping. Slip has analysed some of the most successful in-store experiences to reveal the activities making consumers return to the high street.
Amazon’s Just Walk Out stores provide the next step in innovation for the in-person shopping experience. The stores allow customers to scan their phones upon entry to verify their account, and hence a payment method, then consumers can choose their shopping and leave the shop without the usual payment process.
The success of the Just Walk Out Technology has been documented by the rising number of Amazon stores opening, alongside other retailers introducing the technology into their stores, with supermarket giants Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi following suit. Whether customers return to the store due to the unique experience or the ease of shopping, it appears to be an effective method to increase footfall.
The concept of in-store events isn’t new, however, retailers are increasingly hosting enticing and unique events to lure consumers back to their stores. Selfridges recently announced SUPERSELF, “an exploration of the self as a work in progress, from a mindset of personal innovation, self-care, positivity and counter-cliche ways to feel good”. The event includes talks on CBD, a plant-based diet and even sessions with confidence coaches, breathwork specialists and sex therapists. The novel event has drawn significant attention to the store.
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More than a place to shop
The late Topshop was a pioneer in providing its customers with a place to fulfil more than their need to shop. The retailer defined its core customer audience as young women and provided beauty and hair facilities to fulfil another of their desires. The luxury store Harrods followed suit in the summer of 2021, opening Townhouse Nails. Providing an additional service that serves the retailer’s target customer’s needs and creates a reason for shoppers to return to the store, especially for time-poor consumers who appreciate combining two activities in one place.
In comparison, Primark has had to make a significant effort to entice customers back to its store as it doesn’t operate via e-commerce. The latest offering is a collaboration with baked goods retailer Greggs with the launch of ‘Tasty by Greggs’, an in-store cafe, alongside an apparel launch. This follows in the footsteps of Smokey Barbers, the Primark Beauty Studio and the Disney Café which were all recent in-store experiences to drive customers to return.
Tash Grossman, Co-founder and CEO of Slip shared her insight:
“With the convenience and flexibility of online shopping proving meaningful for many customers, retailers must create reasons to drive customers in-store. Quirky initiatives will lure customers in, with trends from lockdown such as wellness enticing customers to visit shops. Retailers must provide a personal experience for their customers, which can be achieved by ensuring experiences are highly targeted. There are shared customer desires such as customer service and engaging experiences which must be kept at the forefront of in-store experiences.”
“Although the pandemic has escalated the move to e-commerce, the current market data proves the demand for in-person retail experiences. Pop-up stores for e-commerce brands have become increasingly popular, with Freddie’s Flowers using temporary sites around London to drive awareness of their brand. Further, companies like Amazon and Gymshark who were major online-only players, have started to build a physical store presence. It is clear that retailers must offer an extraordinary experience and implement strategies that engage consumers with their stores on a continuous basis. Although the pandemic challenged in-person retail to the maximum, it also revealed consumer interest for the high street is going nowhere.”