From the retail apocalypse and the swift rise of e-commerce to the struggle of brick-and-mortars to adapt to the digitally-driven world, the future of physical stores is one of the hottest topics in the retail world.

Should your focus be on e-commerce rather than your physical store? How should you cope with brands with an impeccable online presence? Is there any sense to even open a brick-and-mortar nowadays? Mostly surrounded by content that accentuates the benefits of the digital over physical, many retailers might feel reluctant towards their retail environment. While many try to predict the big box’s forthcoming, we’ve decided to take an offbeat approach and investigate why having a physical store is so worthwhile. Here are some elements that highlight its beneficial characteristics:

Return policies in-store are not so complex

Retailers are working hard to lower the number of product returns ordered online. To improve their digital usability, they are focusing on providing dynamic 360°snapshots of their products, accurate fits, virtual mirrors, and more. Despite the attempts, when online shopping, the chance of ordering an item that is of the wrong fit is still higher than when trying the items in-store. For e-commerce, the average return rate is 20%, which is double the amount compared to 8-10% of item returns bought in stores. Taking into account that 65% of returns are not due to a shopper’s fault, the frustration that comes with e-commerce returns is anticipated.

Nonetheless, if there is something worse than being deceived by your purchase, then it is going through all the fuss that comes with returning clothes you’ve ordered online. Fortunately, this is when having a physical store you can go to comes in handy. If you have a faulty/incorrect item you want to return or your delivery was too late, talking to staff in-store will be more efficient than filling in an online complaint and waiting for days for someone to get back to you.

Furthermore, many state that the speed and convenience that come with online shopping are its biggest benefits. We must come to terms with this one: browsing online does have its charm and might help you to find that perfect leather jacket much quicker than tracking it down in stores. Regardless of brisk shopping, what most fail to take into consideration is the lengthy delivery period until the item reaches your doorstep. When shopping in brick-and-mortars, on the other side, there is no waiting time to get your items, and whatever candy you set your eyes on, you can have in your wardrobe immediately. Above all, you won’t have to fear to receive an item that looks completely different than you’ve expected, which, truth be told, is not uncommon in online shopping.

Physical stores as more reliable

On this note, we are all familiar with cases of shoppers ordering a seemingly beautiful garment online, just to be completely deceived once they witness how it looks like in real life:

A gap between expectations and reality when online shopping

Although the chance of such an occurrence might be higher if you order low price tag items, it is a risk present in almost any online purchase you’re making.
When looking at physical stores, one of its most valuable aspects, according to shoppers, is the ability to touch products. In brick-and-mortars, customers can feel the texture of an item, and see how it fits, making the overall shopping experience more peculiar. Consequently, the lack of physical touch in online shopping and the inaccuracy of electronic images is one of the biggest frustrations among shoppers.

As the price tag rises and shoppers have more at stake, their willingness to take risks by buying an item they haven’t seen reduces. Just think of the case when you’re looking to buy a car. When making such a big investment, it is natural that you will want to see how the car looks in real life, how it feels to drive it, and what emotions it evokes in you. Based on that pure feeling, you will know whether that is the right purchase or not. If we look at online shopping, it is exactly that feeling and emotion you have when interacting with a product in real life that is missing.
This feeling goes in hand with survey findings that indicate that at least 56% of shoppers visit stores to first see and touch the product before buying it online. What is interesting to note is that  men (60%) are more prone to visit a store before buying something than women (52%).

Reduced risk of fraud

Although having an online presence as a brick-and-mortar is recommended, if you’re an established brand, selling online is not a must. Just take a look at luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton and Céline, who don’t sell all of their items online. Both for copyright reasons but also to keep the exclusivity, focusing purely on your physical presence can differentiate you from competitors.

Many luxury brands have to cope with fake branded goods 

Despite the fact that many luxury brands avoid online shopping for the aforementioned reasons, online shopping is still, compared to brick-and-mortars, much more prone to fraud. With e-commerce growing at a fast-pace, cyber-crime is on the rise as well. If, as a purely online retailer, you do not invest in the latest security systems, your business and reputation can fatally be damaged. Having a physical store, on the other hand, can give you a sense of control and stability that might lack online.

More room for engagement

Besides purely buying clothes, browsing through brick-and-mortars is an experience we often share with our friends, families, and partners. Trying out clothes in the fitting rooms, consulting your close ones for advice and having fun is all part of an experience that is difficult to recreate in the online world. Nowadays, we see many physical stores creating experiences that tackle all  senses, from smell and touch, to sound and sight, which is still not possible to recreate online.

One of the biggest advantages of physical stores is their ability to engage with shoppers and provide a unique, real-time experience that will lead to higher sales. Although many online sites now have effective customer service that you can reach out to while shopping, being approached by in-store staff still gives a much more personal touch to the shopping. According to the Retail Trends Report, overall positive experience with staff will increase customer satisfaction by 33%, highlighting the power of face-to-face contact. With the power to engage the customer and tackle their senses, physical stores offer an elevated experience that will, despite technological improvements, be challenging to recreate.

Good customer experience can improve overall shopping experience

Simple return policies, more reliability, security and higher engagement, big boxes still have a long way to go. Possessing key traits that are mandatory to create strong experiences, physical stores are at the core of what makes shopping one of the most favored activities, and based on these, are indeed here to stay.

Are you curious to learn more? Through our integrated decision-making platform at StoreDNA, we help you deliver dramatically improved performance through better product assortments, store layouts, visual merchandising, and associate optimization. Learn more here.