It sometimes seems like the digital age is slowly choking the presence of physical stores. According to Nasdaq, around 18% of purchases now take place online, rising to a whopping 95% by 2040. So, what place does a physical store have in this digital age?
We believe the key lies in thinking about the customer’s journey, from discovering your brand to enjoying your product in their home or business. Think about the last few purchases you made online. Were they everything you thought they would be? Did they come in exactly the right colour, the right materials, the right size?
We became particularly interested in this topic recently, as we’re starting to take an exciting new direction with Office Needs. We’ve been successfully supplying furniture to our customers for over 30 years, but now we’re looking to expand our furniture offer even further, to keep up with new trends like the rise in sit-stand workspaces. This meant it was time to decide whether we should be selling furniture in a digital space, a physical space, or both.
There’s something about a physical shopping experience that can be very hard to replicate in a digital environment. We spoke to an AI technology firm recently about their plans to create an app that lets you see office furniture in your workspace, simply by moving your phone around the space and viewing the 3D renders to scale on your screen. To us, this sounds like a fantastic use of technology in order to perfectly plan your new office aesthetics. But it’s never going to help you decide whether your new chairs are going to feel as comfortable as they look!
We think working out which parts of a retail business work best in digital and physical spaces means breaking things down by product groups. Then you can think about what makes a great customer journey. For example:
- Buying a branded stationery product you know and love? Digital! You might already have one on your desk, so why waste time when you can drop it in an online basket and quickly checkout?
- Buying a set of new, ergonomic chairs for your office? Physical! By coming into a physical space and trying the product out for yourself, you can check that the feel and features are exactly right. This is especially important if you’re choosing between different fabrics – seeing the colour and texture in person is always far superior to guessing from a digital swatch.
Ultimately, that’s why we created our lovely new showroom. We know there are lots of advantages to placing your furniture order online, especially if it’s a budget item that you need quickly, or an additional piece from a line that you already know and love. But when it comes to getting some inspiration for your workspace, and seeing how a piece of furniture will really look and feel, we think there’s no substitute for popping in and trying things for yourself.
Interestingly, we’re not alone – according to PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Study, 49 percent of consumers regularly shopped in a physical store in 2018, versus 36 percent in 2014. It looks like even if digital purchases are rising, more of us are realising the value in visiting a physical space. After all, we don’t mind if you want the convenience of being able to place your order online after you visit – we just want to make sure you’re sitting comfortably on your new chair.
The new Office Needs Showroom is now open at 4 Olympic Business Centre, Paycocke Road, Basildon, SS14 3EX. Opening times and more information can be found on our website