The retail landscape is always changing. The rise of the internet forever changed the way that consumers shop, but the classic brick-and-mortar retailer with human store associates still remains a very relevant business model. In fact, while e-commerce will undoubtedly continue to thrive, physical retailers can take solace in the fact that millennials still appreciate a trip to the store.
A 2017 study performed by ChargeItSpot found that millennial consumers consider store associates to be integral to a satisfactory shopping experience. Additionally, nearly half of millennials wouldn't patronize a store where human employees were replaced by robots. These results are surprising, as one might assume that baby boomers who grew up shopping in stores with retail employees would be more likely to prefer to keep things the same. However, the study shows that millennials tend to prefer face-to-face experiences.
When you think about it, it makes sense that millennials would appreciate store associates more. Many of them have spent all or most of their lives with e-commerce options readily available. Going to a retail store that has store associates readily available creates a more personal and memorable experience. On the other hand, baby boomers have been shopping at brick-and-mortar stores their whole lives, so online shopping is often a welcome change.
While e-commerce giants such as eBay and Amazon will continue to dominate the online markets, many brick-and-mortar retailers are also recognizing the importance of catering to the online crowd. It's also clear that e-commerce companies are recognizing the need to bring a fresh in-store experience to younger generations. For example, Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods shows that the online giant recognizes the potential of traditional shopping outlets with four walls and helpful store associates. Both business models are going to continue converging, and the retailers that cater to both consumer types are likely to gain the competitive edge.
The ability to shop online is a convenience, but it's not a replacement for the timeless in-store experience. Millennials enjoy being able to receive personalized recommendations from knowledgeable retail employees. They appreciate the unique moments and adventures they have during shopping trips, not just browsing products online. Many modern retailers offer specials and promotions that are only available in-store, further increasing the desire of young consumers to make the trip outside.
It's reasonable to assume that forward-looking retailers would want to focus on automation and e-commerce, but overlooking the importance of human store associates could be a dire mistake. Proper training, fair wages and positive work environments make for happy employees, which directly contributes to better shopping experiences for younger generations.
Retail store associates can take comfort in the fact that millennials want them to stick around in the next phase of retail evolution. This is the time for savvy retailers to create unique, modern in-store shopping experiences to keep younger generations excited about turning off their screens and browsing the aisles.
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