Are customers missing the retail experience?

It seems as though Amazon is keen on re-building the brick-and-mortar retail experience, and is something others in the industry should take note of.
1 October 2018

Amazon is brining back the retail experience. Source: AFP Photo / Jim Watson

Retail stores have been shutting down everywhere, and it seems as though people are missing the retail experience.

To cater to customers, Amazon is trying out exciting retail concepts — and the response seems very favorable.

The tech giant recently opened up a general store in New York City that it calls Amazon 4-star. The concept store will sell consumer electronics, kitchen, home, toys, books, and games — all of which have earned 4 stars and above, or are top sellers, or are new and trending.

The store is located in one of New York’s most vibrant neighborhoods—SoHo—on Spring Street between Crosby and Lafayette Streets.

There are innovative category names such as ‘Most-Wished-For’, ‘Trending Around NYC’, ‘Frequently Bought Together’, and ‘Amazon Exclusives’, all of which feature along with customer review cards with quotes from actual customer reviews.

It seems as though the e-commerce giant is working hard to re-create the magic of the retail store and it’s something customers like.

To be honest, customers never did move away from retailers.

True, Claire’s, The Walking Company, Bon-Ton, KIKO USA, A’GACI, Toys “R” Us, and a whole bunch of other well-known retailers did file for bankruptcy in the past year or so, but the industry isn’t doomed.

Reflecting back on the rise of e-commerce, experts believe it was mostly the deep discounts and the convenience they offered to customers that won their hearts and a share of their wallets — and it seems as though e-commerce or online shopping will always have a place, but alongside brick and mortar stores.

Retail as it stands today

Shopping isn’t just about getting the best deal, it’s an experience and it’s usually something people do with friends and family. Ask IKEA, the Swedish equipped its stores with a crèche and a restaurant so people can come in and shop together as a family.

E-commerce, therefore, will gain where it adds convenience and discounts without taking away from the experience.

Take grocery shopping for example. It’s a hit on the e-commerce model because it allows you to find products you need quickly, and get them delivered to where they’ll be used — all while saving a few bucks by way of discounts and fuel charges.

E-commerce doesn’t detract from the retail experience in any way either. Not many people think of going to the mall with their parents and kids to buy fruits, vegetables, or other household products. According to Nielsen, 23 percent of Americans are buying groceries online today, and expect that number to more than triple in less than 10 years.

Fashion, or shopping for clothes and accessories, on the other hand, offers a completely different experience in brick and mortar stores.

It’s something people want to experience with their friends and family. Trying on different kinds of clothes from different brands is exciting — it’s the definition of ‘retail therapy’ — and something you completely miss out when shopping online.

Electronics and consumer durables, too, tend to be something people like checking out in person at retail stores before purchasing in-store or online. This is sometimes where people shop around for discounts, comparing prices online on their smartphones while standing in the store.

Amazon’s concept store, Amazon 4-star, therefore, is a great idea. It allows Amazon Prime members to pay prices in-store, while still offering to them the retail experience.

Although the launch of the concept store won’t make much of a difference to the industry, it’s definitely a signal of where companies should look and an indication of what customers really want.