Think local commerce is dead? Think again, writes the founder of Boutiika, who offers five reasons brick-and-mortar stores will continue to thrive.By Ruchika Kumar (Co-Founder & CEO, Boutiika)
Pardon the cliché, but you’d have to be living under a rock not to have noticed the overwhelming buzz buzz buzz surrounding e-commerce, and how it’s the future of retail. The result of this tidal wave of e-commerce-related media coverage has been hundreds, if not thousands, of technology companies being born to enhance the online shopping experience from virtual fitting rooms to subscription services. It’s no doubt that online shopping plays an increasingly important role in our society. But I challenge you to consider one fact: “95 percent of retail transactions still occur in-store.” TechCrunch, Local Commerce
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There are a number of reasons that the in-store shopping experience not only continues to exist, but continues to dominate the overall retail landscape. Here are 5 of them:
- Online, “fit” remains a challenge. Think about the pair of jeans you feel most confident in. Did you buy them online? It’s unlikely. And if you did, you had either tried on a pair in person before, or you got really lucky. Style loses its worth if an article doesn’t fit
- Touch and feel still matters to people.By and large, consumers appreciate having the opportunity to interact, so to speak, with an item. Though some women would beg to differ, fashion is a non-commodity. It’s not like toothpaste or Tide. Because we don’t actually need every item in our wardrobe, we often feel that we deserve to have a pleasant tactile and emotional experience with an item before we buy it.
- Shopping in store is fun. Let’s consider all the people out there who shop as a hobby or a pastime. Further, let’s consider those who actually get pleasure from shopping, or use it as an escape. Boutiques and malls are safe havens for millions of consumers across the globe.
- Instant gratification. Picture this: you find a pair of sandals perfect for your upcoming vacation for sale online. You plug in your credit card info, and then wait anxiously for three to seven days for the sandals to arrive. Even if you pay upwards of $20 to expedite shipping, you still can’t have the sandals that day. You have to wait. Got a last-minute invite to a super-exclusive white party you’ve been dying to attend? Forget about shopping online for a white dress. Traditional e-commerce isn’t even an option when you need something today.
- Personal attention and expertise. Sometimes, nothing beats a sales associate who knows her stuff. We rely on in-store associates to tell us which color looks best on us in a particular shirt. We listen carefully when a store associate suggests “that would look better with a belt.” And, let’s face it, we’re grateful when a friendly employee takes our items out of our hands and prepares a dressing room for us, especially when they ask for our name, and then use it. By nature, many of us really like the personal attention we can only find in-store, and sometimes, we need a fashion authority to help us execute a look.
So there you have it. Just a few of the reasons local commerce isn’t going anywhere. With the recent explosion of fashion-tech companies, it’s surprising that all of the technology to date has served to help people transact online. Isn’t there an opportunity for technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience, rather than detract from it?
There is, and it’s all about insight. If shoppers are able to see what cool items are in stores near them at any given time, they’re more likely to be inspired to visit those stores in person. Further, their visits to stores involve less guesswork and, thus, can be planned according to which neighborhood has the best items. Efficient in-store shopping facilitated by technology in an online to offline fashion? Sounds chic to me.
This post originally appeared on SF FASHTECH. About the guest blogger: Ruchika Kumar is the founder and CEO of Boutiika, a fashion GPS platform that helps shoppers discover and access cool items in stores near them. Originally from the UK, she studied business at The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, and founded Boutiika with 7+ years in enterprise strategy at Accenture. She is both experienced in and admittedly obsessed with fashion retail. Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com via Flickr.