Previously we covered the growing trend for online-only retailers to open physical stores to cater to consumers’ desire for a physical, in-store experience . And I’ve got some more good news for brick-and-mortar retailers from The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper  (PDF) study.
The study describes today’s consumer as a “flex shopper” whose approach is dominated by the desire for convenience. While you might think that means shopping mostly online, in fact, the study found that only 39 percent of purchases are both researched and completed online. In the other 61 percent of cases, consumers either research products in-store, buy them in-store or both.
In other words, consumers are nowhere near giving up the in-store experience to shop solely online.
And even when they do buy online, more than half have had a product shipped to a physical store for pickup. Another reason consumers go to physical stores is to return products purchased online. Nearly 60 percent say they’re dissatisfied with the process for returning online purchases by mail.
But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Shoppers in the survey who regularly buy both online and in-store, dubbed “omnichannel shoppers,” report making over half of their purchases in-store. However, while 83 percent of them say they are satisfied with the online shopping experience, only 63 percent report being satisfied with the in-store shopping experience.
Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement among brick-and-mortar retailers. What are some features consumers would like to see in your store in the future?
- 36 percent want to get receipts sent to them via email or text. This offers convenience and helps ease returns later.
- 32 percent would like kiosks that let them order products that are out of stock. Even if you’re already providing the option to have sales associates do this, customers who don’t want to wait for assistance may go elsewhere. Consider installing tablet computers as a lower-cost solution.
- 30 percent would like electronic shelf labels they can scan to learn more about the product, check availability or make a purchase. Information is key to today’s shopper—the majority say they won’t complete a purchase without access to detailed product information.
- 24 percent would like to do mobile checkout with their own mobile devices in-store. Increasingly, customers want to take charge of their own shopping experiences. In addition, 22 percent would like a salesperson to do mobile checkout with a mobile device in-store.
Not surprisingly, Millennials are the generation most likely to say they’d use these services. As Millennials come into their own as consumers, these features will become even more desirable.
So What Does the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail Look Like?
According to the report, a lot like online shopping. For now, consumers still rely primarily on their desktop computers for online purchasing. But as more consumers get more comfortable with mobile shopping on tablets and smartphones, brick-and-mortar retailers will face even more challenges.
Here are some things to watch for:
- Keep an eye on Millennials’ behavior: Not only is this generation huge fans of brick-and-mortar, they’re also key influencers of other generations.
- Many happy returns: Make sure your in-store return policies  are customer-friendly. Wherever they buy, customers want return policies that are convenient, fair and easy to understand.
- Information, please: The more information you can provide to your in-store shoppers, the better. Think of how you can make the in-store experience more like the online experience in terms of ease of comparing products and finding deals.
- Touchy-feely: Customers come into stores to touch, feel and test. Make your in-store experience a pleasant one with colorful displays, well-stocked inventory and sensory touches of sight, sound and smell that an online retailer can’t create.
Shopping  Photo via Shutterstock