Malls are lumbering, claustrophobic dinosaurs, while anchor stores like Macy’s and Kohl’s are shuttering hundreds of locations. Fresh Direct and Peapod make it easier and quicker to stock a cupboard than wading through the jam-packed neighborhood Kroger, and Amazon and eBay and Overstock sell, well, everything.
Who needs retail anymore?
In fact, 71 percent of U.S. consumers say they still prefer to buy from physical stores even if the same products are available online, according to a recent TimeTrade survey, which alsofound that 85 percent like to shop in stores because they say they want to “touch and feel” items before buying them.
Online shopping accounts for only about 9 percent of total consumer retail spending, according to the most recent quarterly figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. But make no mistake—everyone from retail behemoths to specialty boutiques is feeling the pressure to adapt more seamlessly to the digital world, to bring in that all-important foot traffic and to deliver an experience that consumers can get nowhere else.
That’s a tall order at a time when the average head of household in the U.S. has cut his or her number of shopping destinations by 30 percent since 2010, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said at the recent Shopper Marketing Summit in New York. The power is squarely in thehands of the consumer, and building brands has never been tougher, he noted.
High-tech bells and whistles (get ready for humanoid robots as sales associates) are only part of the equation, analysts say, and if retailers have their eye only on a consumer’s wallet, they’re more likely to falter. “Shoppers’ most valuable asset isn’t their dollars, it’s their attention,” says Christopher Brace, CEO at Syntegrate Consulting in New York. “Every move should be vetted against its ability to capture the shopper’s attention. If it can’t, then its relevancy significantly lessens.”