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With the holidays fast approaching, online shopping is top of mind for many people. In fact, nearly half say they’d do all of their holiday shopping online if they could.1

While the convenience of shopping from home can be hard to beat, leading marketers aren’t giving up on their in-store shopping locations. And for good reason: 61% of shoppers would rather shop with brands that have a physical location than ones that are online only.2 Plus, demand for local information continues to surge. Mobile searches for “can I/to buy” and “near me” have grown over 6X in the last two years. Examples include, “where can I buy stamps near me” and “where to buy vinyl records near me.”3

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It’s clear people still want to shop in stores. So how can brands keep customers coming back? Here are a few ways to ensure your physical locations remain crucial assets for your business.

Embrace the convenience that online can’t match

For impatient shoppers, stores still rule. Nearly 80% of shoppers will go to the store to buy when they have an item they need or want immediately.4 The familiarity and comfort of going back to the same place are also key for shoppers. Research tells us 45% of those who purchased in stores said they did so because it’s where they always buy.5 Still, leading marketers aren’t resting on their laurels; they’re finding new ways to make sure shoppers can quickly get what they need.

The Home Depot is one brand revamping its mobile site and app to deliver better assistance to in-store shoppers. To better connect the online and offline experiences, Home Depot has invested in features like digital navigation and “wayfinding” in its mobile app. These make it easier for customers to locate the specific store aisle they’re looking for. The retailer is also providing more diverse fulfillment options, such as self-service lockers that allow customers to pick up their orders without having to wait in a checkout line.

Create unique, hands-on opportunities to engage with products

Another thing shoppers appreciate? The ability to experience products in person. There are two attributes people value that are distinctive to shopping in stores: seeing and interacting with a product before buying it. Thirty-five percent of shoppers also say they choose to go to a store because it’s more fun than shopping online.6

That’s why leading marketers are doubling down when it comes to creating unique, enjoyable experiences for shoppers who walk through their doors. Canada Goose is one brand creating “can’t find this anywhere else” experiences in its stores. Knowing that customers have trouble choosing the right coat to keep them warm in the harshest elements, the brand has launched Cold Rooms in its Hong Kong, New Jersey, Boston, and Montreal stores that allow people to try on parkas at temperatures as low as −13°F. Inspired by cold conditions in places like Churchill, Manitoba, best known for its polar bear population, the Cold Room includes an adjustable thermometer and a Wind Chill switch that can be turned on and off to enhance the elements. This gives customers the opportunity to try a wide range of products and really test them in the environments the brand has been built on.

Bring the best of online and offline together

Whether it’s a digital cart or a physical one, brands must be there to help customers feel good about their purchase. To help achieve that, ensure your channels work together.

Retailers like Sephora are investing in digital technologies that serve as personal shopping assistants while customers are in stores. The brand’s mobile app makes it easy for shoppers to scan barcodes to read product reviews, look up their order history, and more.

The Sephora Virtual Artist feature within the app also encourages product exploration, including the ability to test full-face looks using facial recognition and augmented reality technologies. Customers can virtually try on thousands of makeup shades across lip, shadow, eyeliner, lash, cheek, and brow categories. And new features like Snap & Try let people try on anyone’s look, including friends and celebrities, while Foundation Finder helps shoppers find the right foundation for their skin tone.

Whether it’s a digital cart or a physical one, brands must be there to help customers feel good about their purchase.

CarMax, a used-car retailer, is another brand using its physical stores to complement what people find online. Nine out of 10 CarMax customers start their experience online, but almost all of them finish in stores. That’s why the brand is using its online data to give it a head start. It looks at behavior on to see which car models a customer is researching and gives them multiple options to test drive at their appointment. And if a customer has already submitted information for prefinancing, the sales associate understands their budget needs in advance and won’t recommend cars outside of their range.

3 questions to ask yourself

With online shopping quickly closing the gap on the speed and service offered by stores, retailers and brands must reimagine the experiences they deliver to add unique value that can’t be found on digital channels alone. Ask yourself:

  • Is your store making products easy to find and readily available? If not, the next retailer or brand is just a mobile search away.
  • Is it worth the trip? Traveling to a store isn’t always convenient, so help your store stand out by offering interesting experiences and valuable expertise. 
  • How does your store complement your website? Be there for customers no matter where they are by designing experiences that harness the unique benefits of both online and offline channels.