As we look back at the recent holiday season, something that became apparent was the way shopping continues to change. Expanded services like buy-online-pickup-in-store and same-day/expedited delivery, is evolving. As seen in our latest Consumer Spending Report, retailers that provided a seamless shopping experience and connected their physical stores & online channels were the ones that did very well. Looking forward, 2020 will be the year of customer experience.

Photo provided by Kohls.

Physical stores are not going anywhere. However, the reason for having a brick-and-mortar location has changed; stores need to be more experiential. Kohl’s partnership with Amazon, where it accepts Amazon returns in-store, is going well for the retailer who is in turn seeing more traffic and obtaining new customers.

We are noticing more and more that it’s important to make the customer experience meaningful. For example, The American Dream, a new retail and entertainment mega-center which focuses first on experience, has not had trouble attracting visitors, or tenants. Impressively, almost 90% of the center’s available 3.3 million sq. ft. has been leased, a figure which rises to nearly 100% when leases under negotiation are included.

Convenience is key. Walmart, for instance, is offering an ultra-streamlined shopping experience at its new Neighborhood Market location in Coral Way, FL. The store features a number of technologies designed to save time for both customers and associates. These include the first online grocery pickup offering in this section of Miami, as well as same-day grocery delivery. Associates can check customers out anywhere in the store using handheld store devices. Walmart also recently announced it will be adding shelf-scanning robots to 650 more stores in the U.S. by the end of the summer, bringing its total to 1,000. This is to better track inventory, stocking, pricing, and to free up more time for associates to assist customers.

The changing path customers take to purchase requires retailers to alter how they sell their products. Increased access, speed and convenience equal more power for the consumer. By doing so, retailers are able to focus on providing a better experience. Stores are no longer an endpoint for shopping, it is a destination, and the companies that embrace this growing demand, will be the ones to thrive in the coming years.

Suppliers for the retail industry can reach thousands of chains in multiple segments using Chain Store Guide’s sales leads databases which contain contact information for the buyers and decision makers. Manufacturers of POS equipment and technology service providers can use our Retail Technology PLUS database to identify which companies plan to purchase new enhancements to their stores and infrastructure.