We’re already into April and retailers are shelving their spring collection items fast. As the temperatures start to warm up, and as COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen across the U.S., retailers should be preparing for a surge in in-store shopping once more.
Akin to the “revenge shopping” trend that we’ve seen emerge during the warmer months of the past couple of years, we’re going to see yet another wave of people eager to get out of the house and return to physical stores for their purchase needs. But things are going to look a bit different this time. Retailers will need to shift their in-store focus to appeal to more of the differentiators that come with in-person shopping — and reward incentives like card-linked offers are going to play a key role in bringing those consumers in.
Experiential Retail is on the Rise
Traditionally, retailers have tried to bridge the gap between e-commerce and in-store retail by creating a seamless, unified experience across both. Going into this next wave of revenge shopping, retailers are starting to rethink their in-store experiences and the roles that they’re meant to play. There are benefits to the in-store experience for consumers that retailers are trying to highlight and heighten — e.g., the ability to feel the quality and texture of new clothes, try out electronics, smell perfume before making a purchase. If online shopping is all about utility and efficiency, in-store shopping is all about the brand and product experience. This makes in-store shopping more of an activity for consumers; a way for consumers to connect with a brand in a physical way. The different experiences and priorities for online vs. offline shopping are complementary and less competitive when done right.
These aren’t inherently new in-store experiences, but the ways retailers showcase them will be. For example, a clothing merchant might install kiosks that allow consumers to browse products without having to search across the entire store. When a product catches their eye, they can be directed to the part of the store where they can interact with it directly before deciding to make a purchase. It brings the convenience of e-commerce shopping and the quality assurance of in-store shopping together.
Experiential retail has been tested by a few larger players. For example, the Nike flagship store is constantly bringing new engaging experiences to in-store shoppers — most recently with its partnership with Roblox and integrations into the metaverse. Not all innovations need to be as monumental as Nike’s, however. This is where we’ll see more retailers get creative with their real estate.
Shoppers Are Smarter Than Ever
Aside from great in-store experiences, shoppers are getting smarter and savvier. The pandemic has made price a bigger priority for many shoppers, and concerns around inflation are only making this even more apparent. Retailers need to provide unique and rewarding incentives that will pull consumers in-store. Having a great in-store experience isn't enough; consumers now prioritize value and price above all else.
Reward incentives like card-linked offers are a great way to attract in-store foot traffic. By providing incentives organically through their already preferred payment methods, these rewards are not only attractive from a monetary standpoint, but they also require minimal effort or extra steps to activate and capitalize on.
If a shopper is looking for a new pair of shoes, for example, and they have the option to earn 5 percent cash back by using their credit card at Foot Locker, they’re more likely to shop there instead of another retailer that might have the same style shoes in stock.
Card-linked offers also provide consumers with that “winning” feeling that can’t be replicated elsewhere. It doesn’t just reward their wallets; it fortifies their belief that they’re being smart with their money and making the right purchase decisions.
Act Fast or Fall Behind
Retailers need to start investing in these in-store strategies today or else they run the risk of falling behind. Consumer behavior is as volatile as ever, and the in-store surge is undoubtedly coming. If retailers can create unique experiences that highlight the benefits of in-store shopping, and pair them with rewards incentives like card-linked offers, they'll be setting themselves up for success.
In-store card-linked offers bring a pay-for-performance approach to the in-store experience. It brings the best of digital marketing to solve brick-and-mortar traffic challenges. By bridging the gap between online and offline experiences, retailers will be able to interact with consumers on their terms.
Erin Warren is the general manager of Rakuten In Store Network, a pay-for-performance platform that allows merchants to drive consumer traffic to in-store locations through card-linked offers.