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Customers Still Prefer Brick and Mortar Store Experience During the Holiday Season

Amid the cacophony and abundance of digital consumer experiences, most shoppers – especially during the holiday season – still prefer the brick and mortar store experience according to a new study from WD Partners.

Millions of shoppers head to stores on Black Friday and throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to acquire Christmas gifts at attractive prices.

According to the study from WD Partners, in-store shoppers love great deals, but crave memorable customer experiences. WD Partners, a customer experience expert for global food and retail brands, conducted the consumer study to examine the attributes of the in-store shopping experience compared to online shopping.

The study titled, “Amazon Can’t Do That,” identifies what consumers are looking for in a shopping experience and presents a roadmap for physical stores to beat online retailers.

When asked to rank the best features of online and in-store shopping, consumers overwhelmingly ranked in-store features as more appealing.

According to the study, here are the top five exclusive attributes that an in-store shopping experience offers that online shopping can’t deliver:

Get it now. Next day delivery still isn't as satisfying as get-it-now shopping, according to 79% of consumers who rank instant ownership as a top factor in influencing how they shop.

Look at the real product- and touch it. Stores offer a sensory experience and immersion into the product that online retailers cannot, according to 75% of consumers.

Human connection.  There’s no match for the emotional experience of interacting with live human beings in a compelling store environment.

Community.  The store remains America’s equivalent of the town square, a time to shop with family and friends.

Personal service.  Store employees make a difference. Consider Nordstrom, Apple or Whole Foods, three of the industry's top-performing retailers.  They invest heavily in store employees – and shoppers love it.

What’s more, The survey also showed that, while physical stores offer many of the attributes in the list above, retailers must continue to evolve the in-store experience to connect with shoppers in ways they desire most. This is especially true for millennial shoppers who demand unlimited options, convenience and 

While physical stores offer these exclusive attributes, retailers must continue to evolve the in-store experience to connect with shoppers in ways they desire most. This is especially true for millennial shoppers who demand unlimited options, convenience and customer reviews. Retailers must evolve to meet their needs in order to survive.

“The store should be a place of inspiration and ideas that leaves shoppers with a high or sense of euphoria,” Lee Paterson, executive vice president of creative services of WD Partners, said in the study. “The in-store shopping experience must offer more than a warehouse does. Retailers who provide this type of shopping experience will be successful this holiday shopping season.”

The study is based on quantitative and qualitative shopper research by WD Partners. In May 2013, more than 1,700 consumers were surveyed using a nationally syndicated panel. Following the quantitative study, focus groups were also conducted among the three generations of consumers – Millennial, Gen X and Boomer.

“Our research found that consumers expressed sadness for struggling chains, sympathy that some chains couldn’t get it together to beat Amazon,” Peterson added. “Yet there was no lack of desire for a human-driven store experience and nostalgia for retail’s more glamorous past.”

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