Nearly half the inhabitants of mainland France make their retail purchases at a physical shop, with only a small minority expressing a readiness to alter their shopping habits. Nevertheless, change is just around the corner and if retailers want to stand out from the pack, the key criterion is innovative features.

Some 49% of French consumers report that they make their everyday purchases only in physical stores and just 10% say they are ready to change. These findings come from a study* carried out jointly by L'Atelier and Ifop, the French Institute of Public Opinion, for a recent L'Atelier Thema (open forum) session entitled: “The future of shopping: the death of the shop?” From a marketing viewpoint these results find clearly in favour of the traditional bricks-and-mortar store. They show that these stores still position themselves as a focus for shopping and are still able to attract new customers. This is a trend confirmed elsewhere by Bonial, a company which helps firms to promote themselves online, in a similar survey. But if retailers are to maintain this situation they need to rally to the watchword ‘innovation’ – and that means multichannel innovation.  

Balancing in-store and online

The survey highlights the fact that 15% of French consumers make a special visit to physical stores where there is an innovative service – such as iPad use and ‘connected’ booths – on offer. Some 80% of them explain that it’s precisely such innovations that persuade them to visit one store rather than another. And even if they don’t actually go to the store, some 31% go on to the brand’s website to use its innovative services for making bookings, arranging in-store pickup, etc. and 10% say they ‘often’ go to these sites. Close to 50% state that they are more likely to choose a brand that offers innovative features on its website. These two shopping trends are actually more in line with traditional stores than with online pure-players. However 80% of the customers polled were expecting to see some differentiation in terms of sales strategy (promotions, delivery, etc.) from one channel to another.

Mobile shopping not yet catching on?

So why this enthusiasm for innovation across all channels? According to the survey, 65% of French consumers believe that innovation has made shopping more convenient. When it comes to in-store innovation, 50% said they were looking especially for easier access to product information – on price, origin, etc – and 32% wanted help in discovering new products. Some 29% of those  surveyed also expected that such innovations would improve their personal relationship with the brand, 27% hoped that they would simplify payments, and 23% wanted to see innovations that would help them to manage their customer accounts. However, when it comes to accessing brand sites via mobile devices, just 13% of those surveyed reported that they had already made a mobile purchase via the brand site, and only 17% said they were tempted to do so.
* Le futur du commerce physique – Les principaux enseignements (“The future of bricks-and-mortar shopping – the main lessons learned), December 2012, online survey polling a sample of 1,011 people aged 18 or over who are “representative of the French population”.