Retail revival for smart shops highlights four key drivers of the renaissance.

The benefits of shopping online can now be had offline by consumers too. For consumers – and retailers – this is cause for celebration because most of us want (if not crave) to be online 24/7. But we still prefer to live in the world of warm bodies rather than cyberspace. Consumers can now access all the things they love about e-commerce – convenience, the ability to hear other consumers’ experiences, total price transparency, and virtually endless choice – out in the ‘real world’ too. Here’s an anecdotal example: shopper in Sears, who when faced with an in-store price $3 higher than Sears’ online store, simply pulled out his smartphone, bought online, selected in-store pickup and walked over to collect his purchase. Eight out of 10 consumers research purchases online. While 42% research online and then buy online, 51% research online and then buy in-store.

Experiences still rule. Smart retailers have looked hard at what would make them unique and forever desirable. The ones who have been relentlessly reinventing themselves have understood shopping isn’t purely functional. For large number of consumers, ‘going shopping’ is leisure activity: way of relaxing, source of entertainment or chance to meet up with friends and share experiences. When consumers go shopping in person, they increasingly expect to feel or experience something that they can’t get online: compelling spectacle, exclusive products, the ability to test and feel things, or learning how to use products. Hence, the rise in highly experiential stores and outlets which are turning the retail arena around the world into veritable retail safari.

Status. Shopping in the real world delivers instant status gratification in way that online (still) can’t, however shallow that might be. The search for social status underpins much of consumer behaviour and the act of real world shopping will remain popular way for consumers to receive their status fix.

Unrelenting urbanisation. The future of consumerism is urban and urban culture is retail culture. While this is obviously true in mature markets (that are already urban), the real story is in emerging markets, where urban migration is unleashing tens of thousands of new, eager consumers into the retail arena every day. Cities are retail nirvanas. Urban dwellers have more disposable income, more leisure time and virtually limitless opportunities to spend it. As result, retail therapy will remain key prescription for ‘citysumers’.

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