The physical store is not dead, just changing

Seattle—Executives from companies such as Target and eBay were quick to say that the brick-and-mortar was anything but dead to a room full of digital retailers at yesterday morning's Summit.

In the breakout session titled, "Do you need the physical store?" Healy Cypher, head of retail innovation, eBay, opened by listing some staggering facts about the progress of digital. He noted that smartphone consumers are going on their devices on average 150 times a day and that every day more iPhones are sold than babies born in the world.

But that doesn't change the fact that the in-store experience is still an integral part of most retail transactions. Digital and physical are now working together to create an optimal shopping experience. As many as 72 percent of consumers are showrooming, or researching on phones while in a physical store, and 78 percent are webrooming, looking at the store online before entering the brick-and-mortar location.

When a consumer is in a physical store, it is paramount that digital play a role in that experience, seeing that 50 percent of all shoppers would rather look up information on their own devices than talk to a sales associate. In fact, 54 percent of consumers are interested in seeing digital signage, and product lift by digital signage is 23 percent higher than in other locations.

Emily Culp, senior VP, commerce, marketing and retail, Rebecca Minkoff, compared brands to content publishers. "There is interesting content in each channel that can stand alone, but can also serve as a ladder up as part of a larger story," she said.

While brick and mortar isn't dead, it's completely changed from 15 years ago, according to David Finnegan, CIO and VP, information and interaction, Orvis. He emphasized, similar to Culp, that retailers are the story tellers.

"Our highest satisfaction is when one person connects with another person," said Finnegan. "I believe the magic of what digital can bring is the connection between people."

Finally, speakers stressed the importance of the entertainment factor in today's retail experience. Alan Wizeman, VP, and mobile product, Target, referred to the multichannel shopping experience as a "choose your own adventure." In other words, how the guest chooses to interact with the storefront is all in their hands.

"The line between online and offline doesn't exist," said Wizeman. "As much as 15 percent of Target's sales are now attributed to buy online and pick up in-stores, as the recent launch has become increasingly popular. He also announced that Target would soon launch a ship from store option for consumers.

Wizeman added, "the future is best when omnichannel blends."

See all of FierceRetail's 2014 coverage here.

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