As today’s society has come to rely on new, portable technologies such as smartphones and tablets, more and more consumers have chosen to use these mobile devices to shop online from the comfort of their own homes. One would think that a rise in online shopping would lead to a decrease in retail shopping in stores; however, recent studies have suggested that this is not necessarily true.
In a Gallup poll this past March, participants were asked to answer the question, “Has mobile technology increased, decreased, or not affected the amount of shopping you do in person at retail stores?” The results were mixed: while 19% of participants reported that mobile technology had decreased the amount of shopping they did at retail stores, 59% reported no change, and 22% reported an increase.
So, if mobile technologies have caused an increase in online shopping, why have they not caused a decrease in in-person retail shopping? One possible answer is that retailers have begun using these new mobile technologies to create more pertinent marketing techniques, thus driving consumers into their stores.
By using electronic communications and social networking websites—instead of traditional mail, print, radio, and TV advertising—retailers have taken advantage of new mobile technologies to segment the market and target specific consumers more effectively than ever before. In addition, some stores offer a “pick up in store” option, which allows consumers to purchase their item online beforehand while still maintain consumer traffic into their brick-and-mortar shops.
Although these statistics show that retail stores are not soon going to be replaced by their online counterparts, they must imagine new ways to engage consumers and make in-person retail shopping a more enjoyable and convenient experience if they want to survive. According to Boston.com, “because of the frenetic pace of advances in technology and online shopping, the stores that remain will likely offer amenities and services that are more about experiences and less about selling a product.”
One example of increased consumer engagement while retail shopping is the introduction of on-demand coupons. The drugstore Duane Reade, which can be found on almost every street corner in New York City, has begun testing “beacons,” which will communicate with consumers’ smartphones to offer discounts as soon as they walk into the store or past a certain product.
“For example, you can walk into a drugstore where you normally buy face cream. The beacon would recognize your smartphone, connect it with past purchasing history and send you a text or email with a coupon for the cream,” stated the article.
Another potential innovation that is on the horizon for retail shopping is the concept of hologram-equipped dressing rooms. Although it seems impossibly futuristic, it may not be too far off: eBay recently purchased a company working to create life-size 3-D models of clothing that consumers can virtually try on, in different colors and styles, without physically needing to undress. Reportedly, the hologram technology can also be used in a virtual dressing room, to show the consumer what he/she would look like while wearing the clothes in different settings and while doing different activities, such as playing golf.
While online shopping is, arguably, one of the greatest conveniences of the 21st century, the results of Gallup’s poll indicate that consumers still crave the instant gratification that comes from purchasing a product in person and bringing it home. It seems that retail stores will be sticking around for a little while, but will need to step up their game to ensure a steady flow of customers through their doors.