There was a recent time when the conversation about the future of brick-and-mortar would see retailers becoming perplex and nervous. Retail industry analysts were envisioning a complete takeover by e-commerce and an inexorable decline of physical stores. ‘Not so fast’ is a conclusion one could now draw from looking closely at what is actually happening on the ground.
In Johannesburg many retailers have noticed that customers spend a longer time in-stores as they do various things before, aside or after shopping. Some customers stroll across the store and take pictures of the décor, others pose at a particular spot and do selfies, others zoom in on price tags, labels, and specific items. Whether it’s for friends and family to weigh in in their purchase decision making or for sharing their shopping experience, customers widely share these pictures on their social media. Result: retailers find themselves at the centre of online conversations, comments and recommendations.
Seeing an opportunity to get a social media boost and generate more footfall, various retailers have invested in upgrading their store design, fine-tuning their product offerings, and installing tools that encourage customers to have fun whilst shopping, such as a photo booth that tweets and emails digital images.