How many of us have attempted to buy shoes from an e-commerce platform and been sorely disappointed because the size doesn't fit, or the shape doesn't complement our feet or the heels are not up to the mark? Of course, it might take you a few attempts of shopping from different brands to figure out what fits you and suits you best. However, when it comes to footwear, these are some of the reasons why offline stores are still the king when it comes to retailing shoes.
Footwear customers in India who have essentially focussed on value and durability for generations are now evolving to buying shoes that look stylish, expensive and are still comfortable. As a result, they want more from their retailers in terms of style options, modern in-store experiences and a variety of fast-fashion brands to choose from. Various studies have shown that customers are wary buying shoes online without trying them on and getting a feel of the product.
Some of the leading retailers are focused on developing their in-store shopping experiences and offering value-added services while competing with online retailers. These include services such as 3D foot-scan for customized in-soles, Foot Spatorelieve for aching muscles and Shoe Spato that keep footwear as good as new. When customers walk into a store, they are giving in to the experience of being pampered and assisted in their choices. A patient salesman who doesn't mind spending time helping you make the right decision in terms of look, comfort and fit cannot be replicated in the digital world.
On the back of this demand, many of the major footwear brands are opening flagship stores to target more customers in larger cities and smaller towns.
Here are some retail trends that drive customers to offline footwear stores:
Brand Experience – Customers do have their favourite brands when it comes to footwear as their products and in-store experiences tick off their checklists. Brands, on the other hand are characterised by how they make the customer feel as soon as they step into their store. This partnership between customers and brands is like any other partnership — brands need to be up to date on customers’ expectations and customers need to be satisfied with their product choices. The onus of driving this offline demand rests on how brands make their customers feel in their stores. While most retailers understand the delicacy of this partnership, some still grapple with strategies that will help them meet the ever-changing demands of the customers.
Adding Value - Customer retention for offline footwear stores hinges on strong customer relationships, which in turn helps amp up their sales. Customers trust these brands with their money and time because they add value and advice that no online channel can replicate. A repeat customer is far more valuable than a new customer. Only those customers that have formed a comfort zone with a brand and its stores repeatedly visit their favourite stores.
Everything In One Place - When customers walk into a store, they have the entire display of products on offer and can easily make a choice by comparing their favourites. Also, regularly changing in-store display shelves and windows brings in repeat customers who look forward to and track new arrivals coming in. A brand that keeps its marketing strategy fresh in its stores will likely not lose customers to the e-commerce platform.
The article has been authored by Mayank Lakhani, Director, Lakhani Infinity Footcare