Making the in-store experience a welcoming and appealing proposition is critical if retailers hope to recoup lost sales. While many consumers are openminded about returning to stores soon, a new survey by measurement technology company MySizeID finds that a few specific measures could help increase customer comfort and attract shoppers to brick-and-mortar.
Footwear sales have begun to rise again after a significant dip earlier this year, and experts predict that trend is likely to continue, with 71% of respondents saying they would feel comfortable shopping for non-essentials in a physical store. For the footwear category specifically, only 18% said they felt uncomfortable shopping in-store for those products, compared to apparel (49%) and cosmetics (33%).
However, many shoppers want to wait and see what retailers are doing before they step foot inside a physical location. Of those surveyed, 30% said they would return immediately upon reopening; 26% would wait two weeks after reopening; and 26% would wait longer than a month to return. Women were more likely to delay than men, and half of Gen Z reported that they would choose to wait two weeks or more.
“Consumers are itching to get back to stores just as much as retailers themselves, but they’re not willing to risk their health,” said Ronen Luzon, CEO at MySizeID. “The next step for retailers would be integrating a solution that eases the buying process and leads to fewer returns — therefore building upon brand loyalty and lessening the chances of transference.”
The delay in in-store shopping could provide an opportunity for retailers to put in place new systems while foot traffic remains low. Implementing safety and hygiene measures will be essential in order to draw customers away from the online channels that they have been using for the past few months.
MySizeID reported that four specific features would help respondents feel safe when shopping in-store: requiring contactless payments and mobile purchases (28%); holding returned clothing and merchandise for 48 hours (27%); allowing customers to book a private fitting room in advance that has been properly sterilized (26%); and color-coding returned clothing, based on how long ago the item was returned (18%).
Despite these measures, some elements of the shopping experience will be permanently changed. The majority of consumers (56%) said that the process of trying on items is the most impacted aspect of their shopping experience, more so than the ability to browse (20%); receive recommendations from store associates (13%); or enjoy the social element (11%).
Without being able to try on an item, consumers are less able to assess fit or comfort — two of the driving factors of returns. The survey found that 61% would not trust the fit of clothing without trying it on, while 91% believe that companies should be more transparent about fit and sizing. This shows a clear service gap, and an opportunity to close it.
“The luxury of trying on clothes in a dressing room was already archaic,” said Luzon. “Retailers need to be looking at solutions where customers can easily input their own size measurements and compare them to each brand’s own metrics.”
Retailers who can find a way to improve fit guidance, both in-store and online, will be able to improve customer confidence and possibly increase conversion rates. Consumers frequently now browse online before they visit a store, to make sure their trip is purposeful. Online fit guides can help prepare a shopper for an in-store visit and streamline their experience, or give them the confidence to make additional purchases when in-store.