The way that we shop has changed dramatically over the past decade. Amazon has seemingly transformed the retail landscape, making it simpler than ever to purchase anything from a tube of toothpaste to a back-yard patio set without ever leaving the comfort of our couch. 

There’s a lot to be said for the convenience and discounts of online shopping — so much so that some have proclaimed the death of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. 

However, according to recent data, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Contrary to Popular Belief...

Millennials, who are the most significant purchasing age group, are helping to push trends in the other direction. Research finds that Millennials are increasingly shopping offline, giving brick-and-mortar shops a boost. 

Statistics from the National Retail Federation show that Millennials and Gen-Z are shopping in retail stores more than ever. About half surveyed said they spend more time shopping in stores than they did a year ago. While a third report that their shopping habits have remained the same. Only 17 percent said they’re spending more time online. 

It's All About the Experience

As has been well-documented, Millennials are driven by the quest for experience. And when it comes to experience, brick-and-mortar stores deliver. There’s just something about shopping that appeals to our primal hunter/gatherer instinct.

Retail Dive found that about two-thirds of female shoppers want a multi-sensory experience when it comes to shopping. They want to see, touch and feel the items they’re considering, especially when there’s a fashion quotient — think apparel, accessories and home furnishings. As for men, they’re all about the acquisition. They get a thrill from having their purchases in hand and taking it home immediately.

Reasons for Choosing to Shop in Stores vs. Online

There’s also the social factor to consider. If you shop at a grocery store chain like Whole Foods, the odds are good that it has a full-service coffee-shop, and it might even serve beer and wine by the glass so that shoppers can socialize or sip while they stroll the aisles. 

It’s also not uncommon for some grocery stores to offer cooking classes, wine tastings, and feature live music on weekends — effectively turning a Saturday-afternoon chore into an experiential event.

Accountability and Service Matter

Facebook IQ, the research arm of the social giant, found that among Millennial shoppers, trust and security are essential

Millennials want to try before they buy and easily return things if they change their minds later. They appreciate personalized customer service and face-to-face interaction — something you can’t get from Amazon or other large online retailers.

What’s more, shopping at physical retail stores reduces the risk of purchasing the wrong product, receiving damaged goods, or experiencing shipping delays.

The same Facebook study found that Millennials see brick-and-mortar stores as more convenient. Sure, they like shopping in their pajamas at 10 p.m. but love the instant gratification of walking out of a neighborhood store with their purchases tucked under their arms. Even express shipping can’t beat that sense of instant gratification!

Embracing Digital

Even though brick-and-mortar is increasingly significant for this growing generation of new shoppers, digital is more important than ever

Millennial shoppers are pointing, clicking and researching before heading out the door, and retailers should understand and embrace the power of digital marketing in order to attract their attention.  

Millennials are likely to research items and read user reviews online before they venture in-store to check them out. They’re also likely to order online and pick up their purchases at the store, reducing or eliminating shipping costs, while simultaneously satisfying their desire for immediacy.

Rewards-based digital marketing strategies, which offer special deals and in-store discounts, can help to sweeten the deal.

Using monthly incentives, encourage your customers to write an online review or to join your mailing list so that they can be made aware of upcoming local sales and exclusive store events. 

Understanding how people like to shop and balancing online convenience with an exceptional in-person customer experience will go a long way towards driving consumers to your store.