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Retailers' efforts to lure shoppers to stores with experiences still missing the mark

  • Eighty-six percent of shoppers like "experience stores," where they can test products in stores but buy on mobile or online, GPShopper finds in a survey of 1,200 adults.
  • With a few exceptions, most American retailers today are "incredibly bad" at offering a good in-store experience, GlobalData Retail's Neil Saunders tells CNBC.
  • Warby Parker, Apple and Bonobos are a few examples of winners in the space, Saunders says.
Shopper at a clothing store in San Francisco.
Robert Galbraith | Reuters
Shopper at a clothing store in San Francisco.

Retailers are still coming up short on winning shoppers over with in-store experiences.

More than one-third of shoppers said they "feel nothing" when asked about their initial reaction after shopping in stores, GPShopper found in its latest report, "Reality of Retail: Consumer Connection."

GPShopper's study, which was conducted with research firm YouGov, asked roughly 1,200 U.S. adults what innovations — both digital and physical — they want retailers to incorporate in stores.

The survey found:

  • 86 percent of shoppers like "experience stores," where they can test products in stores but buy on mobile or online, similar to the Samsung store concept.
  • 85 percent like the idea of product recommendations based on ratings, similar to what Amazon is doing with Amazon Books.
  • 80 percent like buying items online and picking purchases up in stores, as Wal-Mart and Target have been promoting.
  • 78 percent like stores that were first online and then developed physical storefronts, similar to Warby Parker.

"We believe in retail but also think [stores] need to evolve to meet the modern consumer," said Maya Mikhailov, CMO and co-founder of GPShopper.

"The modern consumer is connecting to retail digitally. ... The most important device for them is the mobile phone."

Mikhailov added that traditionally brick-and-mortar retailers are now "stumped" about what to do with excess square footage amid the age of digital. And as evidenced by GPShopper's latest survey, many retail companies have yet to hit a high note with consumers' emotions.

Following "feeling nothing," many shoppers appear to be "anxious."

How shoppers feel in stores

Source: GPShopper

"Consumers are increasingly indifferent about the store experience," Mikailov said. "When you're indifferent you will just shop for price, and stores need to make you feel."

With a few exceptions, most American retailers today are "incredibly bad" at offering a good in-store experience, GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told CNBC in an interview.

"Most retailers are still operating the same basic store model that they had in the pre-internet era," Saunders said. "Shops look and feel tired and do very little to enthuse the customer."

A retailer like Target, for example, has great products with functional merchandising, he said. But Target's stores are more places to go and get things, rather than places to go and be inspired or have fun, Saunders said.

"The big department stores are the most guilty parties regarding lackluster stores. A dearth of investment and an unwillingness to change has meant that visiting an average department store is depressing rather that uplifting."

While department stores like Macy's and J.C. Penney might be missing the mark, specialty retailers are starting to realize changes that must be made in order for them to survive and thrive in an evolving industry.

Ulta is one example of a beauty retailer that's been winning over more shoppers by offering unique experiences, like hair salons, facial stations and "brow bars" for eyebrow waxing, in its physical stores.

Lululemon, an athleisure retailer popular among millennials, is about to open a pop-up shop on New York's Fifth Avenue with yoga classes, according to sign's outside the building.

And then there's Nike, which has made moves to merge the physical shopping experience with digital interactions by bringing its online shoppers into stores via training sessions, running clubs and more.

"To be fair, many retailers are trying to address this by introducing new services and offers, but the progress is slow," Saunders said. "Meanwhile, some retailers are hitting the nail on the head."

Consumers visiting physical shops less

Source: GlobalData Retail

The biggest winners: Warby Parker, Apple and Bonobos, a men's clothing retailer that Wal-Mart plans to acquire, are all building their businesses around allowing customers to experience the brand rather than simply to sell their products, Saunders said.

GPShopper's survey was conducted online from May 26 to May 29.