In today’s fast-paced society, more consumers are utilizing digital platforms for product purchases. Customers want a fast, efficient, and “frictionless” experience. This means eliminating inconveniences such as using physical rewards cards and coupons, as well as receiving handfuls of receipts.
With a demand for a seamless buying process, the future of the traditional brick-and-mortar store may seem bleak; however, companies every day are proving that digital and traditional retail systems can coexist and that it’s less about shifting to a different platform and more about evolving and offering options that meet today’s consumer needs.
Many of today’s busy consumers wish to avoid driving to a store, packing up a car, waiting in the checkout line, and digging through wallets for cards and coupons. Popular companies like Walmart and Panera are already integrating digital technologies that bring this consumer dream to life, all while maintaining traditional in-store services.
Walmart’s frictionless experiences, such as in-store pickup and home delivery, have recently branched off into online pickup towers. These towers are conveniently located near the entrance of the store and can easily be spotted due to their large size and bright orange color. What previously took place at customer service desks, is easily achieved in under a minute at a self-serve kiosk. What’s more, Walmart is adding pick-up lockers to its towers for larger items like televisions Currently, however, food cannot last in the lockers, Walmart is also in the process of developing a similar refrigerated system to meet the needs of on-the-go grocery shoppers.
Panera is also finding different ways to make their brand more enjoyable for today’s hungry customer. With “Panera at Home” products, customers are able to stock up on Panera brand foods at local stores and create convenient meals at home based on recipes from the Panera website. Customers also have the option of rapid pick-up, a feature that places online orders on an in-store pick-up shelf. No lines, no wait. Perhaps the most innovative feature Panera offers is the “Order From My Table” option. Customers simply press this option on their mobile phone order, enter their table number, and wait to be served in the cafe, bypassing lines and physical transactions.
The features offered by Walmart and Panera provide proof that the future of the brick-and-mortar store is not dead. It is evolving. Now, more than ever, it is critical to be a data-focused and customer-centric business. This means creating a brand experience that today’s consumer will enjoy, whether it’s adding features like rapid pick-up on items or reserving products in pick-up lockers. It’s about understanding customer expectations in today’s market, providing them with convenience, and ensuring on-demand services are available in order to compete with the Amazon-like companies of the world.
What are your thoughts on the new evolution of buying behavior?