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Don’t give up on real retail

 

There’s been lots of discussion recently – how retailing had to change in response to COVID19, and that many of those new “shopping norms” might be here to stay. Many consumers are wondering if “traditional” shopping (the old dwell-a-while in brick-and-mortar kind) has finally had its day ? I hope not… I miss the experience of real retail.

As our world swings between sudden lockdowns and gradual release, every consumer has experienced an upset in the way we do (did) our shopping. It’s not possible – or lawful – to spend time at a local shopping strip or mega mall anymore – many of the stores are closed and restrictions have impacted the last remaining few. Shopping just isn’t shopping any more – most retailers have had to change the way they transact in order to stay afloat. Online shopping sites – socially distanced and COVID safe – have been the only sales outlet for many businesses in recent times.

Other initiatives have been introduced or enhanced… retailers have promoted their “click and collect” options to reduce linger times in (or near…) stores. Online warehouse sales are widely promoted as “pop up” events, and new product releases are dropped via social media. I’m not a fan of any of those (click and collect / online pop ups / virtual releases), as they can’t engage shoppers with the products, businesses or communities the same way a physical shopping experience does.

Who would’ve believed me, if I’d said any of this, just 6 months ago ? You would’ve said I’m crazy…

The biggest threat to real retail now is the rise of virtual shopping. I’m no stranger to online stores (but no expert either), and I’ve certainly had opportunity to get more familiar with them lately, as the ‘strips and ‘malls slide in and out of hibernation. Like millions of other consumers I’ve had little choice – can’t just walk around the corner / drive around the block to get my “non-essentials”. But the online process isn’t the same as physical shopping – it has many flaws and it really isn’t much fun.

Two times recently we’ve had what I’d call online “purchase failures”. First was a pair of boots arrived way too small… did we actually order Ladies Size 10 instead of Mens Size 10 – or had someone picked the wrong product to send ? Doesn’t matter – those first boots went back and another pair came, still not quite a great fit (that wouldn’t have happened if we’d purchased in a real store)

And last week I arrived home to find another card in the letterbox (missed delivery). For 5 days there was no update – the parcel, it seemed, was in transit to an unknown pick up location. It was up to me to lodge a request (online of course, there’s no phone number) and within a few days the parcel did arrive, a week or so late (that also wouldn’t have happened if I’d purchased in a real store)

An article at KochiesBusinessBuilders quotes “research by leading eCommerce SaaS platform, Big Commerce (saying)… Australians are rejecting online shopping following bad customer experiences, with 71 per cent abandoning their shopping carts due to poor shipping options and bad service.” A negative shipping experience is one of the reasons why consumers “have stopped shopping with an online retailer” (51% of Aussies surveyed)*

The “experience” of real retail (stepping into a physical store) just can’t be replicated online. The real thing allows you to seek out products, compare quality, sizing and variety with actual (not virtual) feedback. That feedback is a good thing as it stimulates our senses and enhances the shopping process… something which helps make it a positive experience and not a chore.

Real shopping also doesn’t require much vigilance – surely I’m not the only consumer who navigates an online site with extra suspicion and wariness… careful not to order a wrong item, too many or too few, to fill in the customer / delivery fields correctly, and then a bit hesitant to enter my credit card details. None of that concerns me when I’m in a physical store – hearing a real voice, looking at a real face (I’m in a safe / trusted environment)

There’s no substitute for the initial greeting in a brick and mortar store, from someone you know is there to offer genuine assistance and advice (who doesn’t expect you to navigate your own way around the unfamiliar space, and provide limited support via a “chat” box). A good sales person will ask what you’re after and guide you through the options, sometimes leading you where you didn’t know you wanted to go… then cheerfully take your payment and offer you the purchase in a bag, just like its a gift ! And finally they’ll wish you a happy day and hope to see you again soon (okay, sometimes they’re quite not so cheerful and chatty)

But while I’m musing on the changes in physical retail (when shoppers do go out to shop)… what’s with the proliferation of baggy daks and tight lycra ? A visit to the ‘mall, or even just the local shops used to be good reason to dress up a little (not a lot… but at least something fresh and interesting). Nowadays it seems okay to slide off the couch / out the door in whatever we might’ve been wearing for the past 3 days… quite acceptable in the oldest / ugliest track suit bottoms or skimpiest pair of leggings. It really doesn’t require much effort to spruce up… that was always part of a good shopping experience. You felt happy going into a store with your good-looking friends, and even happier coming out with your great-looking purchases. And let’s face it… track-suits or leggings coming towards you can be, um, a little confronting when a person’s “bits” are squeezed against the fabric, struggling to escape !

I suppose that whatever we’re wearing isn’t really a big issue… as long as we do eventually get out again to visit stores in our community, supporting those brick-and-mortar precincts and a return to real retail experiences…

 

* source : KochiesBusinessBuilders.com.au / poor shipping options and bad customer experiences

 

 

images :  Google Images, Kochies Business Builders, popUPshopsAustralia

 

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