Customers are demanding to shop how and when best suits them. Our challenge as retailers is to ensure that we enable our customers to shop with us in the most convenient way.
Our customers enjoy the flexibility of shopping online and in-store, often combining both during the one purchase. For instance, researching in a shop and buying online is most common when customers want to test out big ticket items such as sofas and beds.
Alternatively, when buying technology items our customers show us they prefer researching online and then buying in store with one of our expert ‘partners’ on hand.
Although a wealth of choice is open to customers when it comes to how they purchase, a large proportion choose to make their purchase in a shop. 50% of our customers still choose to research and buy their purchase in store and don’t use online.
For retail success this Christmas, retailers will need to ensure their physical and online shops are working as hard as they possibly can, combining seamlessly. At John Lewis, our latest example of this is our brand new shop format, John Lewis St Pancras, which opened in October. This 3,000 sq ft shop, our first ever store at a train station, is home to an edited selection of electronics, gifts and beauty, home and fashion accessories. It allows customers to shop as part of their daily commute. Customers can ‘click & commute’ by shopping online and collecting purchases at the shop the next day.
A further challenge in the modern online age is, of course, how we provide compelling reasons for customers to visit shops. We’re developing our shops as social spaces with more services and reasons to visit than ever before, including Little Waitrose, Kuoni Travel, our own opticians and a foreign exchange service. This strategy is proving successful, with 85% of our customers continuing to visit our shops. This year, John Lewis celebrated its 150th anniversary. The development of our shops has come a long way, from a humble draper’s shop in 1864 to today’s £4bn business of 43 shops and johnlewis.com.
We now talk about the ‘omni-channel experience’. The challenge facing retailers is to sustain a balance of investment in shops, technology and distribution to provide customers with seamless engaging and convenient service.
Jeremy Collins is property director at John Lewis Department Stores.