Trends in Retail:  The Growing Popularity of Bespoke Shopping, The MDC Group

The Growing Popularity of Bespoke Shopping

After a year wherein consumers shopped increasingly online, expectations for the in-store experience are projected to be significantly higher as shoppers re-enter the brick-and-mortar space. Over the course of 2020, shoppers grew accustomed to a high level of personalization in their shopping that physical retailers will want to replicate as their customers return. These new demands will require a re-imagining of how retail spaces utilize their footprint. To meet client expectations, retailers can introduce new, personalized elements for shoppers.

In a general sense, there’s two ways to personalize a shopping experience: the first is by personalizing the product, and the second is by modifying the experience itself to better cater to the individual shopper. Consumers have experienced a wide range of shopping options over the last year, and not everyone will be ready to give that up. By customizing how clients shop based on their needs and desires, brick-and-mortar retailers can learn from the “quick fixes” of 2020 to extend a new variety of bespoke experiences to their customers. Here’s three ways retailers can create an individual experience for their in-store shoppers.

    • Contact-free Shopping – Born out of COVID safety precautions, the idea of “contactless shopping” has seen a steep rise in popularity. In fact, according to one study, 90% of the e-grocery customers surveyed reported that they will continue shopping for their groceries online, even after COVID restrictions have lifted. Drop-off delivery, curbside, and in-store pick up are all services that have become expected due to the pandemic, but research shows that consumers will continue to rely on these offerings far into the future.
      For the long term, stores can develop more permanent infrastructure to streamline contact-free shopping and make it easier for customers and employees. Having back-of-house systems for delivery, installing cabinetry and coolers for curbside and in-store pickup, and introducing or increasing self-checkout areas are all ways to grow contactless shopping and to create systems for these services long-term.
    • Blended Shopping – As shoppers begin to return to brick-and-mortar spaces, consumers will expect the best of what both online and in-store shopping have to offer. One of the appeals of in-person that digital cannot replicate is the hands-on experience. Consumers want to try on clothes, test the comfort of a couch or mattress, even check the ripeness of a tomato before buying. And because consumers are so tactile, even many popular online retailers are opening showrooms so clients can experience products first hand.
      However, the same consumers that want to test out items before purchase may also desire some of the benefits they have come to appreciate from online shopping, like flexibility, anonymity, and a wider range of options. They may want to limit their interaction with sales associates, or customize their shopping trip in other ways.
      As more and more shoppers research before they buy, a blended shopping experience will build on the customer’s online behaviors. Examples include a customer that goes to a store to try an outfit they chose online that has already been laid out in a dressing room, perhaps with some additions to complement. Or it could look like a sales associate that is already aware of the couch a customer wishes to see and knows the level of interaction they desire; or maybe it’s a client who fills out their grocery shopping list online and can see what’s in stock, what aisle a product is on, and whether there’s a corresponding coupon before they ever walk through the door. While blended shopping will look different depending on the market and needs of the client, each is based off a link between online and physical presence and requires planning and possibly new infrastructure.
    • Personal Shopping – After a long year with little interpersonal interaction, many shoppers will be looking for what they can’t get online—human contact. What online shopping lacks is the personal touch, and many customers will be excited to be in a situation where they can ask questions, receive suggestions, and just have someone to talk to. However, this does not mean a complete return to normal for retailers.
      While some shoppers have realized that they want little to no human interaction when in stores, other consumers have discovered that they want more. At a time that many retailers are struggling to fully staff their stores, clients will be expecting a more personalized shopping experience than ever before. They’ll be looking for many of the benefits of a personal shopper, without the overhead. Retailers with readily-accessible sales associates on the floor, who can make informed suggestions and answer customer’s questions and request will make the biggest impact on shoppers re-entering the brick-and-mortar space. According to Deloitte’s trend experts, “our growing reliance on digital interactions has left many of us pining for more personalized human experiences.” Physical retailers can capitalize on this need by adding the “person” in “personalized shopping.”

    There are many ways retailers can choose to offer improved shopping experiences to clients following the pandemic. By blending some of the best elements of online and in-store shopping, physical retailers can offer services that just aren’t possible in the online space. Offering a cross-section of personalized services can allow clients to decide how they want to shop, instead of having to fit into one-size-fits-all. No matter what kinds of services a retailer offers, helping customers feel in control of their shopping experience is a growing expectation that will have a positive impact on client satisfaction.


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