Retail 101

Why Do Customers Shop At Stores Instead Of Online?

The retail industry has changed enormously over the past decade. With these changes have come worries, and at the top of that list is how to compete with the internet. So, with both options available to them, why do customers shop at stores instead of online? The IHL Group surveyed customers and found the top five reasons customers prefer in-store shopping. 

1) Customers Want It Now

a clock on a plate with a knife and fork.
I’ll have an order of right now, please.

By far the most important reason people decided to buy in-store was for immediate access. There are some things you just don’t want to wait for. People also like completing tasks, and clicking a button isn’t as satisfying as holding it in your hands right now. 

The survey also identified two key components of immediate access shopping.

  • Fast Check-out: Customers want their check-out times to be as fast as possible. Stores can improve their check-out times by opening more registers during peak hours and streamlining the check-out process. 
  • In-Stock On What They Want To Buy: The more stores stay in stock, the more customers will return to them. People want to be validated by their decisions, which means if they chose to travel to your store, they want to get what they came for. This doesn’t mean just to make sure your most popular items are always in stock. Many of your customers may be coming to your store specifically to purchase one of your specialty items. Having your store in-stock was so important to consumers that the IHL Group named their study, ‘Out Of Stock, Out Of Luck.’

2) Want To Touch And Feel

a hand touching fabric, indicating why customers shop at stores

The second most important reason customers shopped at stores is so they could directly touch and feel the products.

This is an aspect of shopping that online retail will never be able to duplicate, so take advantage wherever you can. Is your store welcoming of people coming to try the product? For products that are packaged, do you have samples people can try? Are your employees friendly and encouraging of shoppers that want to touch and feel? 

While this advice may seem to apply most to products meant to be touched like clothes and bags, you can experiment with your own inventory. IKEA is an excellent example of this. Most people can’t stare at a lamp and imagine what it would look like in their home, so IKEA answers that question for you. By having elaborate showrooms, customers can really experience the product instead of guessing what an experience would be like. 

In addition to touching the products, consumers also wanted to be able to talk to an employee. People really want to be able to ask any questions they may have and get expert advice. This is especially true for high ticket items and anything that needs explaining. People may be able to purchase t-shirts without the help of an expert, but expensive or complicated products need a personal touch. Someone considering spending a lot of money on jewelry, or wondering why one type of makeup dries the skin while another moisturizes wants to have their questions answered on the spot.  

3) Don’t Want To Pay Delivery Charge

a laptop with money flying out of it, indicating why customers shop in person

Hidden fees have exploded in the past few years, especially in areas targeted towards middle and lower-class families. Hidden costs of products and services add up to 1.4 trillion dollars a year, the equivalent of 28% of all US retail sales. 

With prices so obscured, it makes sense that paying for delivery charges is a massive roadblock for online shoppers. When people are shopping, they want to feel as relaxed and taken care of as possible. Simply knowing that an unknown cost is still lingering above their purchase makes it impossible to completely relax while shopping. 

Even if people have a general idea of how much shipping will cost, it’s still a gut punch when you check out. Even if a consumer knew their order would be more expensive once shipping was included, seeing the numbers at checkout creates a negative experience.

Brick-and-mortar stores will never have this problem, but it’s worth considering how you can remove other shopping obstacles. Is there a way you can improve parking for your customers? Can you offer free shipping if an item is out of stock and a customer wants it sent to their house?

4) Want To Support Local 

a crate a vegetables being passed from one person to another.

Not every decision customers make is based on dollar and cents. Customers shop at stores instead of online so they can support their local economy and feel a sense of community pride. 

How can you make sure your store benefits from the desire to shop local? Make sure you’re offering products that are truly unique and not reflective of big box stores and Amazon. 

Partner with local artists, attend local farmers markets and art events, and even consider hosting events in your store. Art shows, open mics, and readings are great ways to increase foot traffic while involving yourself in the local community. 

You can also make sourcing local a part of your shop’s branding. Use social media to get the word out that your shop is a place to support the community.

5) Convenience

an illustration of a hand snapping, this is why do customers shop at stores

The last factor the IHL survey found was simply convenience. Sometimes you’re near a shop already and decide to walk right in. Sometimes you just feel like shopping, so you pop over to a shop. 

While there’s nothing stores need to do specifically about this point, it’s worth thinking about all the ways your store could be more convenient. Does your store’s layout let customers see everything clearly, and self navigate without confusion? Do your policies lend themselves towards being as easy to understand and convenient as possible? 

Don’t ever view your store as a static entity. The retail industry changes so quickly that it’s always worth re-examining your store and looking for improvements. 

Although no one knows exactly how technology or the retail industry will change in the future, it seems clear that in-person shops are here to stay. Make sure your store is flexible enough to ride whatever wave the future has in store. 

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