Department stores have been around since the 19th century and were once the place to be on many High Streets, however, these days shoppers are looking elsewhere for their purchases.
Around two years ago, House of Fraser had announced the closure of 31 shops, affecting 6,000 jobs (as part of a rescue deal), while in recent news Debenhams is planning to shut stores as profit falls and Marks & Spencer's plan to cut 7,000 jobs over the next three month across its stores and management. But all we can ask is why? Why are department stores closing and not as popular as they once were?
The department store stands for three things: convenience, range, and customer service. This also sounds a lot like, the internet – convenience, and range have been replaced by online purchasing. Shopping online can be argued as the easiest method of shopping, it’s quicker and easier in the digital age to order online than go searching in-store (especially given current circumstances). The department store used to hold all of your favourite brands under one roof, however, online shopping has captured that, under the roof of your own home. Imagine searching Amazon and not finding what you’re looking for – it just wouldn’t happen!
As millennials and Gen Z are the main spenders in this day and age, websites need to be up to their standards and resonate with their values – which most department stores don’t do. According to The Drum, “almost 2 in 5 (37%) 18-24-year olds said the online department store shopping experience isn’t very good and 64% of the same age group believe there to be a wider choice going directly to brands rather than visiting department stores.”
With the new age of technology and all things being digital, what can department stores offer now to be back in the game?
1. Sensory experience
Department stores have the physical capacity to offer a unique/special shopping experience than normal, for example, “to see, touch, feel and try out items.” Over 90% of the factors that influence shoppers in-store are processed on a subconscious level. Shoppers see, react, and make snap decisions within seconds – and the majority of this is not stored in memory. This is the type of experience that cannot be offered online and inspires impulse buying too, so you get more sales at the end of it!
Whilst wandering around a department store it creates a lot of ideas for inspiration and provides you with a sense of security because there is an extremely large number of products around you. Each product offers you a different opportunity, whether it be quality to style to brands. Department Stores have a range of all products that suit the needs of consumers.
To create compelling in-store shopping experiences which is the main reason why consumers want to be in-store. Seeing new and upcoming brands gives the shopper a chance to understand the product they want to purchase, and allows them to pick quality over quantity.
3. Tailor content to specific audiences
Creating content that is unique and able to connect with specific audiences on a higher level is more competitive than ever before. With technology becoming so prevalent in our day-to-day lives, tailored content could be the answer to differentiate you from the crowd.
How can brands beat the competition? Accenture conducted a study and it was revealed that 73% of consumers preferred a business that offered a personalised shopping experience in comparison to those who did not.
From doing research and fully understanding your consumer you are able to target advertising which truly speaks to them. For example, consumers are exposed to thousands of advertisements throughout one day, if your aim is to attract consumers who are likely to make a purchase, tailored content is the answer to make sure they're entering the store in the beginning.
When consumers enter a department store, they enjoy the variation of products on offer, and they believe the store has everything they need - despite it not being the cheapest version of the product. However, shoppers are still likely to make a purchase because of the level of convenience offered.
Tailored content helps brands meet consumers’ needs much more than generic content, consumers want to have an experience that feels personal to their needs and desires.
4. Brand Touchpoints
In department stores offering brands a unique space in which people can experience them physically is the fastest way to build brand connection.
Here lies the opportunity for department stores. They have the physical size to offer a different/special shopping experience than normal stores but they need to care about what they offer, 39% of shoppers like the social elements of bars and restaurants that many departments now have. However, that number drops to 25% with other services such as hairdressers and travel agent concessions. Selfridges is a good example here of how it is managing appeal to a much younger audience compared to other department stores.
50% of consumers also believe department stores offer good customer service, giving a sound base to build a heightened shopping experience. The message is clear, extol your points of difference over other stores, deliver on the overall experience, and raise your game in the online environment.
Our MRS award recognised Point of Purchase Optimiser detects and quantifies those factors, enabling you to maximise engagement and sales conversion in-store – activating unconscious drivers in-store increases sales conversation by up to 200%.
Although department stores are not on the same level as online shopping, from using these four touchpoints it will certainly help appeal to the market again.
Whether you need insight to adjust your strategies for existing brands to the new normal or are thinking about launching new products we can help you get it right. Emotional Logic is a specialist behavioural insight agency and we offer a range of cost-effective research solutions to ensure your strategy connects with the constantly shifting needs of the consumer. Please get in touch for a free consultation.