Is brick-and-mortar shopping dead? Maybe not.

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Many retailers are adapting to the digital habits of consumers and working to persuade consumers to move from their computer screens back into stores. In-store pick-up of orders, ordering kiosks, in-store product research and augmented reality is enhancing the retail experience for consumers. And, in some cases, it is bringing new life to brick-and-mortar locations for major retailers.

According to research published recently by Tech Pro Research, more than half of consumers have researched product information from a mobile device while in a retail location, used an in-store pickup for online orders and taken advantage of automated checkout lanes. All examples of how the retail transformation is taking place.

But let me break the findings down. Just over half of respondents who have used new technologies say they have made consumer shopping experiences easier. Additional conveniences such as automated checkout lanes in the locations, branded apps allowing for payment or coupons, and mobile payments like Apple Pay are popular.

For value, consumers are willing to provide some personal information. Three-quarters of consumers will share their email address in exchange for exclusive discounts. They are also willing to share their gender, location information from their mobile phone GPS, and accept cookies from a web browser.

Judy Brower Fancher, a chief strategist at the Brower Group, says that the industry has learned that people want to be able to shop in person and online. Same day delivery, curbside, in a locker, or take it with them are all features consumers like.

Nordstrom touts its ability to meet its customers in-store, online or curbside, Fancher said. It has created an app specifically to assist with alerting the store for curbside pick up, and also have an option for canceling your curbside pick-up if, upon arriving at the store, you decide you would prefer to come inside. You could say this is like the “checkout” and “continue shopping” options online.

What does this mean for small businesses?

 

It is an opportunity to meet the needs of their consumers. Online is very important for small businesses. Small businesses can compete with the big box and online retailers by investing in a consumer-focused website and an email or SMS-text marketing programs. Combine that with a personalized experience in the store; it is a win for both the customer and the company.

For small businesses, it is essential that the online experience creates that enticing experience for customers so they’will want to come to the business in person, Fancher said. For customers, it’s fun to be in a store where you are delighted by exceptional customer service, given free samples of a product to take home, offered the ability to try out a gadget or find an item they want that was not the original intention for a visit.

Adapting and embracing digital technologies are making purchasing more straightforward for customers while boosting their bottom lines.

 

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This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on July 26, 2018, and nationally distributed to over 300 media outlets through the Tribune Content Agency. 

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