What’s Driving Shoppers into Brick and Mortar Stores?

Brick and Mortar StoresBy Jon Christens

Brick and mortar retail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, the industry as a whole is going through a tremendous period of change. During this tumultuous time, what is driving foot traffic into retail stores? KSM and ORC International set out to answer exactly this in our most recent retail shopping report, the 2016 Brick-and-Mortar Consumer Study (BMCS), which gathered 1,000 responses from a representative sample of U.S. adults.

What’s Driving Shoppers Into Stores?

It’s interesting to note, the top marketing influencers currently driving shoppers to visit stores aren’t necessarily the newest formats. The most influential marketing sources driving in-store shopping (listed as “extremely” or “very” influential by respondents) are “store circular ads,” “email ads or coupons” and “TV ads,” which were selected by 40 percent, 37 percent and 30 percent of total audience members respectively. These rankings represent only slight changes from last year’s Holiday Shopping Study (HSS) data. This year, exterior store signage (26 percent) and direct mail ads (26 percent) rounded out the top five list for marketing formats that consumers found influential in driving them into stores. These findings mostly hold true even when analyzing different age groups. While this may be unsurprising to those thinking about Generation X and Baby Boomers, seeing Millennials listing store circulars and TV among their top influencers is sure to catch some off guard.

So why do consumers essentially feel that a group of tried and tested formats are, overall, the most influential drivers of in-store shopping? One potential conclusion to draw is that online shoppers are often served ads over the web, while brands trying to get someone into their physical stores tend to launch messaging on more traditional formats. But with the state of today’s cross-channel messaging, that theory doesn’t go far enough. A more likely culprit is the concept of reach. Television and email combined are certainly a powerful duo. The mass audience of TV, mixed with the dynamic nature of email can make for a lasting impression. Thus, when a person thinks about what specifically drives them into a store, a larger percentage is more apt to recall the messages delivered across these wide-reaching vehicles. Store circular ads on the other hand are likely high on the list because many consumers associate them solely with in-store activities. When searching for the right marketing balance, many in the retail industry are still figuring out how to grow their evolving online operations in a way that doesn’t siphon overall revenue away from other essential business areas.

What are the Ultimate Takeaways From this Data?

The simplest conclusion is that for both consumers and marketers, old habits die hard, and sticking with proven formulae isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That, and the fact that television advertising, especially when paired with other cross channel efforts both in print and online, is still one of the most effective and extensive media vehicles around. In essence, these influencer results demonstrate that a solid mix of messaging across all channels, with a heavy-up on television, email and possibly even store circulars, should prove successful for driving in-store traffic.

What Keeps In-Store Shoppers Engaged?

Of course, determining which media and marketing tactics drive customers into stores is important, but how about understanding the tactics that are keeping those same individuals coming back? When asked to select their top three incentives for return trips, 63 percent of respondents marked exclusivity in terms of in-store sales or discounts as their top reason, and 53 percent put exclusive rewards or loyalty programs. These elements were followed by the ability to order online and pick up in store, which netted 37 percent of total audience responses. A distinct theme arises from this data. These consumers care most about exclusivity, value, and convenience when choosing to visit stores multiple times. Service issues and tech integrations are not as top-of-mind for them.

Looking at general enticements that encourage shoppers to specifically choose in-store experiences over alternatives, matters of exclusivity and convenience again present themselves. The ability to touch a product or try on clothing was ranked as a top-three perk by 69 percent of respondents. This aspect is obviously something that only a physical retailer can offer, and one that will always set brick-and-mortar apart from online shopping. In second place comes the perceived ease of item returns at physical stores, which was selected as a top-three perk by 47 percent of respondents.

Overall, shoppers are asking physical retailers to provide them with something they absolutely can’t get through online shopping. Whether that is in-store only sales or deals, rewards programs that encourage visits, or the notion that when a product can be easily and immediately found via search, it will often encourage a shopping trip—the common themes of value, convenience and exclusivity persist.