The news probably comes too late for House of Fraser, but a retail trends survey out this week has found that 80% of people went shopping as a day trip in the last month, with 50% of those going in the last week, while 74% still prefer physical stores compared to just 26% preferring online shopping, with 36% preferring shopping malls.
The 2018 Retail Sector Report – entitled ‘The Convergence Continuum’ and set to be published by I-AM – also points to mobile buying seen as a key part of this in-store experience. It also raises doubts over the role of staff with many millennials wanting them to be more knowledgeable and confined to pay points.
According to the study, 51% would love to navigate, get information and pay using their phone instore, while 49% say the most loved element of the in-store experience is touching and trying things out.
But when it comes to staff, there are distinctly negative views: 46% think staff hinder the shopping experience – although 48% still value help – while 70% prefer staff to be just at the pay point, while 28% would happily shop without staff at all.
Arming staff with devices and making them more knowledgeable is also increasingly being seen as a bonus. 71% want store staff to be more knowledgeable and 45% would revisit stores that offered workshops and tutorials from experienced and expert staff.
This chimes with a separate study last week by HR experts CoreHR of store staff themselves, which finds that 57% also see digital technologies as playing a central role in enabling them to work to the best of their abilities. However, the tools aren’t there and, in some cases where there is technology is present, it actually hinders them doing their jobs through poor training and poor deployment of new technology.
The I-AM retail report also suggests that shoppers want some twists to how standard shops work. While 73% of people prefer home delivery over click and collect, 56% would like their click and collect point to offer them a space to try on clothes and facilitate their returns and refunds.
This is the sort of insight that retailers should be acting on. With House of Fraser joinging a long list of department stores that are going under, those that are left need to radically overhaul what they do. Something as simple as allowing click and collect with trying on and returns is simple, quick and relatively cheap to implement and at a stroke makes the store part of the online shopping experience. It also increases footfall, which will lead to more sales.
Combining this with allowing greater use of mobile – by both customers and staff – also is a quick and simple fix that can be readily implemented.
Commenting on the report, I-AM Group Partner, Pete Champion, says: “Both online and offline, people prefer multi-brand stores over mono-brand ones. Retail has undergone a seismic change in the last decade. Though this has been largely driven by technology, our consumer attitudes to what shopping is and does has sifted dramatically and our needs, platforms and spaces have converged. We no longer shop in specific bursts, rather shopping hums along at our pace of life.”
He continues: “Retail has become a continuous chain-reaction of movements, events, experiences and motives. Shopping has become relative – relative to context, person and place and has moulded into four dimensions of space and time. Shopping is no longer about the what and where, but how and when.”
The survey was conducted among 2000 18 to 35 year-olds living in a number of UK cities.