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The importance of driving foot traffic in the e-commerce era

14th Jul 2016
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While reports show rapid growth in online shopping trends, and consumers claim to complete more than half of their purchases online, retailers continue to see great value in driving foot traffic to their physical locations.

The U.S. department store, Nordstrom, for instance, reported a 25 percent increase in online sales, reaching 19 percent in 2015. Despite the increase, 81 percent of sales were still coming from their brick-and-mortar locations. Although the ease and accessibility of e-commerce sites may be attractive to consumers, the in-store shopping experience is still incomparable to browsing for products online. As a result, retailers continue to fight the e-commerce battle with special deals and interesting experiential initiatives to maintain foot traffic rates.

For retailers, bringing shoppers to their physical place of business remains a key to success for two very important reasons.

The first reason is an unmatched customer experience.

As a recent Salesforce study shows, more than 53 percent of consumers still prefer the brick-and-mortar experience due to the unmatched customer service that can be received in person. The truth is, the same sense of cognitive connectivity cannot be provided through an online platform as through a physical store. Unless a shopper clicks the support section on the retailer’s web page, they are unlikely to have an interpersonal interaction online.

Customers who enter a retail store are also able to get a personal feel for the company’s culture. Sales associates and store managers have the ability to offer customers a welcoming environment that allows them to feel comfortable and valued by the company. The more positive the journey, the more likely the consumer will be to return, even if they didn’t make a purchase at that time.

The second reason revolves around any retailers’ ultimate goal – sales.

Think of foot traffic as an investment in potential customers. Each person is a little more likely to make a purchase if they’re already in the store. After all, there are only a few steps to take from the doorway to the register!

Shopping online means that customers have access to the hundreds of thousands of different sites selling similar products. Therefore, it is extremely easy for them to open up a new tab and begin browsing for a better deal. On the other hand, when a shopper finds that ‘must-have’ item amongst the racks full of clothes, there is more of a chance they will hold on tight before the opportunity to purchase is lost.  

More often than not, the act of shopping in a physical store or a mall is more of a leisure activity, whether doing so independently or with others. Thus, customers aren't always looking for the best possible price at a brick-and-mortar store. Instead, they’re looking for the pleasant experience of shopping there.

Despite growth in online shopping numbers, when customer loyalty and sales are paramount, the digital age has still not overtaken the physical act of browsing the isles of the local department store. By allowing customers to take one step closer to a brand’s voice through personalized customer service, a sense of loyalty is increased between the customer and business. Additionally, driving more shoppers to a store location means more opportunity to complete a sale. While online accessibility is undoubtedly crucial amongst today’s consumers, a true omnichannel shopping experience is not complete without a physical store.

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