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Consumers Want In-Person Experiences: Why Brick and Mortar Businesses Won’t Disappear

If you think in-person shopping died with the pandemic, think again. Human beings are naturally social creatures who crave connection with others. It doesn’t matter how this connection occurs – it could be small talk at the grocery store with someone in line, or chatting with a waiter at a restaurant. Any kind of positive interaction with other people has the potential to satisfy the desire to connect.

For decades, personal connections were made during trips to the store, whether someone was buying a jug of milk, new clothes, or motor oil. However, the rise of ecommerce has made some of these interactions disappear. That doesn’t mean people no longer want personal connections. Despite the convenience of online shopping, people still prefer the human touch. That’s why stores that began as internet-only ventures are starting to open physical locations, including Amazon.

The retail experience is becoming more intimate

Some of the formerly-internet-only companies opening retail shops are redefining the shopping experience by creating smaller, more intimate locations that provide a unique and satisfying customer experience. This is important, because no matter how amazing your products and services are, if people don’t feel connected to the shopping experience, they’re less likely to buy from you. Creating a connected experience is the key to driving sales and customer loyalty.

The pandemic didn’t kill in-person shopping. It actually made it more valuable since people ended up feeling extremely isolated and now they crave connection more than ever. The human need to connect in person makes investment opportunities in the retail space highly profitable, which means brick-and-mortar businesses won’t disappear anytime soon.

There are no profits without satisfied customers

Profitability boils down to customer satisfaction. Customers drive profits, and the happier they are, the more they’ll buy. For many products and services, you can generate a higher amount of customer satisfaction in person. For example, in-person sales can prevent frivolous returns since many people need to touch clothing, shoes, and certain household goods to know if it’s what they want. Size, material, texture, and flexibility are all things you can only judge in person.

Customer service is another reason in-person sales can create a higher level of satisfaction. Most online retailers can’t be reached by phone and only offer automated support through email. You really have to jump through hoops to speak with a live customer service representative.

It can be argued that many online-only businesses have thrived, creating happy customers in the process. That’s true, but it’s only because of convenience and price. For example, many people don’t like Amazon, but have no choice but to shop there. Given the opportunity to buy things in person, many would jump on that chance if there was a local store that carried what they wanted.

People want to touch things before they buy

Despite the growing popularity of ecommerce and conducting business in general online, people have a preference for in-person shopping. The experience of walking around a store and touching items can’t be replicated online. For many, physically holding a product and being able to ask a live person questions are essential to make a purchase.

Ecommerce has put a damper on this process, but it’s convenient and often cheaper, so people buy a lot of things online. However, many still head to the store first to physically touch what they want to buy, and then make their purchase online to save money.

According to a study commissioned by June20, there are five main reasons customers prefer in-person shopping:

  • They can get exactly what they want (62%)
  • The experience is immediate (61%)
  • They can see the product first (58%)
  • They prefer a hands-on experience (53%)
  • They can make sure the product isn’t damaged (53%)

These are all benefits that can’t come from online shopping. Online stores can be profitable, but the lack of physical interaction creates a much higher return rate. Brick-and mortar stores have a return rate average of 8.9% compared to online stores at 30%.

To put it into perspective, in 2022, Amazon returnscost retailers around $816 billion in lost sales. A large portion of this problem is caused by impulse buys and products that don’t meet a consumer’s expectations. They don’t know until they receive an item that it isn’t what they expected, so they return it for a refund.

In-person shopping is here to stay

Physical stores won’t replace retail, just like online shopping won’t replace brick-and-mortar stores. Both are essential for success and bring unique benefits to the table. Still, physical stores provide the human touch and connection people crave. 

For people who work remotely, shopping might be the only source of human interaction they get outside of occasional time spent with friends. As long as humans are driven to feel connected to others, in-person shopping will exist.

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