Monthly Archives: August 2020

No Time to Say Goodbye: How the Covid-19 Pandemic is Affecting the College Student Experience

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By Tom Sens and David Prevette

College campuses will likely look a little different this fall semester—including The Krapf Gateway Center at Lycoming College.

The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a sudden transition in higher education from in-classroom education to online learning, and students had to vacate campuses and adapt quickly to remote instruction. To determine the effect of this altered environment, virtual focus group discussions and online surveys were conducted to learn how these mandated quarantines and campus closings are affecting the student experience and how student behaviors and expectations may change when they are permitted to return to classrooms. These insights provide guidance to higher education leaders preparing for the resumption of on-campus learning and activities.

Students acknowledge that online learning can be beneficial, but learning with their peers and professional experience that technology cannot replicate.

The Research Process

Forty-one students from 11 universities across the nation participated in virtual focus groups and online surveys. Each focus group covered four main themes:

  • How the students are doing and what they’re experiencing.
  • How Covid-19 is affecting students’ experiences and their academic progress.
  • Students’ expectations and thoughts on what will be different when they are allowed to return to campuses.
  • The effect of the pandemic on students’ academic career paths and educational outcomes.

Research Results

Several themes clearly emerged from the focus groups:

Students agree that collaboration and social interaction is highly important to their college experience.
Students agree that collaboration and social interaction is highly important to their learning experience.
  • There is no substitute for the on-campus student experience. Allison, a student at the University of Cincinnati, said, “Some majors are just not made for online classes, including architecture.”
  • Students struggle with taking all online classes. Students in online classes report having issues with motivation and staying on schedule. Luke, a student at Virginia Tech, says he has more distractions at home than at college and feels constant pressure to interact with family. Students also say that many professors were not able to adapt their classes successfully for online platforms. Some students stated they might not return to their colleges next semester if classes are offered online only.
  • It is difficult to virtually replicate “hands-on” learning that normally occurs in labs and studio environments. Online courses also result in limited collaboration opportunities with other students. Charlie, a Virginia Tech student, says: “Not being in the presence of others is definitely a major issue because I cannot bounce ideas off people. This experience has hindered what I thought I would get out of this semester.”
  • Students believe some teachers are piling on homework and assignments. They say this eats into their personal time and that they are expected to be available at any time. They also feel some of the work isn’t meaningful. “Biology and chemistry have been very difficult, and twice the work has been assigned,” says Georgia, a student at the University of Cincinnati. “It just feels like busy work.”
  • The lack of social interaction is difficult for students. They chose to attend college to meet people, and they want to be together again with their peers. Charlie says, “What I miss is being in the classroom with friends and being in the dining halls between classes.”
  • The abrupt way in-person classes were canceled earlier this year has negatively affected students who were unable to say goodbye to their friends, finish hands-on projects, or participate in-person graduation ceremonies. Students are grieving these losses and are frustrated by the conditions out of their control. “I had just one night to pack up and move back to Michigan,” says Allison. “I miss the studio environment the most and collaborating with teams. I can’t sit on the carpet on the living room floor back home and build a model.”
  • Despite all of the uncertainty, students still express optimism. “I know there is a lot of bad,” says Luke. “We should look to the shift online as a good working tool. Something beneficial could come out of this.” Students love their schools, have a strong educational commitment to them, and want to return to school as soon as possible.

Students acknowledge that online learning can be beneficial, but learning with their peers and professional experience that technology cannot replicate.

Space Design Implications

Schools need to consider how to incorporate the campus experience into a virtual world should online learning continue next semester. The decision on when to resume on-campus learning hinges on several factors, including government regulations.

The Covid-19 pandemic will have both near-term and long ranges effects on schools, especially regarding how they plan for building modifications to bring students back on campus safely.

Schools need to consider how to incorporate the campus experience into a virtual world should online learning continue next semester.

Social distancing protocols will dictate revised layouts for classrooms, laboratories, residence and dining halls. Large auditoriums designed for 150 to 200 people may now be permitted to hold only 30 to 40 students. Laboratories may need to be redesigned to hold fewer researchers per bench. Residence halls may need to house fewer students, and cleaning protocols will need to be performed multiple times per day.

Dining operations will need to be redesigned to provide safe food preparation and delivery. The dining experience will need to be redesigned to ensure safe social distancing.

Schools are likely to have limitations on large gatherings and how their open environments, including student unions, libraries and reception areas, are used. Long-term implications have yet to be determined, however higher education leaders will need to reassess their institutional strategies around the following factors:

  • Attraction and retention. Increases in the competition for students already is a major concern and the pandemic has magnified this issue; students may choose to stay closer to home or even delay their education, thereby decreasing the pool of potential students. To address this issue, colleges will need to differentiate themselves among peer schools by leveraging the unique qualities of academic, athletic and social offerings.
  • Educational outcomes. With online education likely to be mixed with on-campus learning, it is imperative that the quality of educational delivery, regardless of pedagogy, be of the highest caliber so that students graduate with the skills necessary to succeed in their careers of choice. Students with learning challenges such as ADHD will be particularly affected because of increases in online education Heightened measures to tutor and mentor these students to succeed will be necessary.
  • Financial viability. The financial gap between large research universities, many with medical centers, and smaller private liberal arts schools has widened significantly because of the 2020 pandemic. Institutions will need to re-examine the revenue generation of programs and offerings moving forward to offset financial losses. As an example, student housing may be forced to offer fewer beds until the pandemic has ended. That lost revenue will need to be partially recovered by increasing room and board fees. Employee restructuring may need to be considered, and faculty and staff may need to do more with less. All academic and nonacademic programs will need to be re-examined to determine how they contribute financially. This will require tough choices for administrative leaders to develop a financially sustainable business model.

The key to moving forward is creating the on-campus experience students crave—one that enhances the student experience. This is accomplished by providing thoughtfully designed environments that promote positive behaviors to bring people safely together to collaborate, learn, discover and personally grow through social interactions.


This article was originally published on American School & University.

Trends in Retail Success: Pay Attention to the Data

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Part II of II (Read Part I)

Shopper flock to clicks to bricks retailers like Glossier, pictured here with a line outside of one of their California locations.
Shoppers wait in line to enter Glossier in California.

There’s value in raw data, but it can only take you so far. The true value of those numbers materializes through analysis, anomalies and context. Due to the lack of available real data about shoppers who shopped both on a brand’s digital online site and at its physical retail store, BHDP Architecture (Cincinnati) initiated research to learn more about shoppers’ online and retail store behaviors. The data we uncovered offers both “Clicks to Bricks” (C2B) and traditional retailers invaluable insights into the behaviors of these shoppers.

BHDP engaged an independent, online market research firm, to gather input from 1000 shoppers on their online and in-store experiences between February and March 2020. The C2B brands included for this research were Adore Me, Alex and Ani, Allbirds, Athleta, Blue Nile, Bonobos, Casper, Everlane, Glossier, Indochino, Thirdlove, Untuckit and Warby Parker. Select data from this survey was published in an earlier piece. Below you’ll find the analysis of that data and recommendations for C2B retailers that are considering opening a physical retail store as well as insights for traditional retailers.

Analysis of Findings

Despite the ease of purchasing online, many shoppers still want the option of visiting a brick-and-mortar location. In fact, shoppers are willing to travel a significant distance to enjoy the in-store experience. One significant factor for the in-store experience is being able to see and touch the merchandise as well as being able to take items home immediately. One shopper stated, “I was able to see the quality of the merchandise. I was able to have a worry-free buying experience.”

“I was able to have a worry-free buying experience.”

Clicks to Bricks Shopper

The in-store experience provides the opportunity to build brand loyalty and shopper connection through engagement with real people. Ideally these people were trained to provide a more intimate and personal customer service experience as opposed to an impersonal online interaction. Comments from shoppers concluded they expected great customer service, employee recommendations and personal touches when shopping in the online brand’s retail stores.

When shoppers were asked what their expectations were for brick-and-mortar stores originating from online-only brands, the word “service” was used 157 times – one of the most frequently used terms from respondents. The ability to order from the online site while in the physical retail store was important to 58 percent of respondents, reinforcing the preference for personal service and “virtual” immediate gratification.

However, shoppers are unhappy with the limited assortment of product in C2B stores. Many shoppers in this survey stated that the in-store experience did not match the online experience because the retail stores did not have the same product availability as online sites. Shoppers expect there to be as much or nearly as much product available in store as there is online. “They sometimes don’t have my size in stock at the stores,” said one shopper.

This lack of product availability has significant ramifications on the design of C2B retail stores. The first impression is critical in retail. Because most C2B retail stores are smaller than traditional stores and unable to display the brand’s entire product line, it is important for store designers to impress shoppers quickly with an enhanced in-store experience. A worst-case scenario for retailers is when shoppers leave their stores disappointed or frustrated. In this case, it is unlikely the shopper will return to the store – another reason why an enhanced in-store experience is so important. It reassures shoppers that in-store experiences are worth the effort and strengthen brand loyalty. Finally, many shoppers stated they shopped online after purchasing from the retail store, indicating that a positive in-store experience drives awareness and online business.

Recommendations

“It felt like a candy shop, the feeling you get visually by looking at the website.”

Clicks to Bricks Shopper

C2B retailers are seeking guidance on how to design a brick-and-mortar space that satisfies their shoppers’ needs without following the traditional retail store model. They also want to ensure survival in a competitive, saturated and constantly evolving retail landscape. Consider these recommendations as a roadmap for DTC brands moving to the C2B retail model:

  • Listen to and understand what shoppers like and expect from the online experience.
  • Develop solid strategies to design retail stores that ensure uniformity between the online and in-store experiences to reinforce their brand.
  • Identify brick-and-mortar locations that meet the retailer’s specifications in areas where the target audience shops.
  • Delight shoppers with their initial in-store experience.

Consistency is important. There should not be a disconnect between the online brand shoppers fall in love with and the C2B retail space. Instead, C2B retailers should create a seamless transition from online to in-store shopping by designing the physical space to reflect the feel of the online shopping experience. This is accomplished by C2B brands knowing their shoppers and recognizing their unmet needs and frustrations. One shopper, commenting on the decor and aesthetics of the retail store and how it positively reflected the online brand experience stated, “It felt like a candy shop, the feeling you get visually by looking at the website.”

C2B shoppers want the opportunity to touch and feel the products and leave the store with product in hand, or ordered with free shipping if the product is not available in store. “There has to be a big reason for me to go into the store. Probably the ability to try things on in many sizes/styles and get customer service when needed,” stated one shopper.

To strengthen the in-store experience, C2B retailers should consider offering:

  • Professional and personal customer service and one-on-one consultative help.
  • The ability for shoppers to order online while in the retail store.
  • The ability to observe the entire product line via display technologies to compensate for smaller product assortments in store.

Additionally, providing the convenience of in-store returns for online orders provides another touchpoint for retailers to make a positive impression and another opportunity for additional in-store purchases. When C2B retailers can translate the retail brand experience to align with their customers’ expectations, they can deliver more creative, innovative and engaging environments that build loyalty and generate increased revenue – both online and in store.


This article was originally published on VMSD.com.

Read the first part of this series on the BHDP blog.

Start-Up Lab “Must-Haves”

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan Labs provides access to specialized shared equipment.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan Labs provides access to specialized shared equipment.

The thought of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak essentially launching Apple Inc. out of a family garage is one of the more romanticized developments in the history of entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, it is not a realistic or appropriate approach for many professionals attempting startups in other fields. For example, in biotech and other scientific industries, various daily hazards impose constraints on space and budgets that necessitate more complex working environments with more control over safety and compliance than even the most “high-tech” garage could ever offer. More specifically, in laboratories, a scarcity of certain resources coupled with ongoing onsite challenges that are present during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic underscore how essential it is for professionals and designers to be meticulously detailed, comprehensive, and strategic about identifying the “must-haves” when creating or renovating workspaces in the lab, especially among those companies that are startups or attempting to grow.

An understanding of the role of business incubators and accelerators when it comes to fostering innovation is a good place to start. That requires defining each and recognizing some of the important similarities and distinctions between the two. Incorporating various operational principles into lab designs that allow for more functional workspaces becomes crucial if industry professionals are going to achieve their goals. 

Defining incubators and accelerators 

It is widely accepted that the idea of a business incubator was established in Batavia, NY, in 1959, by a landlord of a business complex who recruited tenants through extravagant benefits. As of 2006, a University of Michigan/University of Albany—SUNY study estimated that as many as 1,400 incubators existed in North America. Between 2008 and 2014, incubators continued to multiply with a 50 percent annual increase. The fundamental hallmark of the incubator is to provide a combination of consultative and financial services, including education and product development support. 

Recent years, however, have brought the market a fine distinction between incubators and accelerators, or companies that specialize in the expediting of growth among already existing companies. Defining the difference between incubators and accelerators is becoming a matter of semantics and interpretation; but, generally speaking, the characteristics of incubators include working with products or services when no market exists, individuals or entities that do not provide capital or take equity, those favored by universities and economic development organizations, and focusing on companies that are local to the incubator. A major shortcoming of this model is that incubators don’t tend to provide a path for graduates to grow and can be slow to weed-out companies that do not succeed.

The fundamental hallmark of the incubator is to provide a combination of consultative and financial services, including education and product development support. 

Accelerators, on the other hand, tend to recruit national clients, work with businesses in a defined market, provide capital in exchange for equity, and mainly draw interest from for-profit entities. This more-advanced model tends to work once a cluster of expertise has been established. Tom Osha, senior vice president of innovation and economic development at Wexford Science & Technology, likes to refer to these clusters as “Knowledge Communities.” A fundamental hallmark of these communities is that they tend to be unique in terms of their needs and the types of Lab spaces and equipment that fuel their growth. Many professionals will continue to use the terms interchangeably, but professionals in an incubator are more likely trying to create a breakthrough technology where anyone with an idea is an asset. In an accelerator, the technology has been proven and there’s more likely a dedicated attempt to be the first to market.

Some common household names that have evolved through the assistance of an incubator or an accelerator include AirBnb, Dropbox, Redbox, Instacart, and Uber. Of course, the stakes for those incubators and accelerators in the biotechnology, chemistry, and nanotechnology sectors are somewhat different. Design trends include development of smaller, cleaner spaces (even before considering COVID-19) on campuses that encourage collaboration. The emergence of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning has resulted in an accumulation of data that requires teams to solve more complicated issues that require multifunctional teams to address them. Colleagues expect to work together in environments where ideas are shared, and this trend is expected to normalize when the pandemic subsides, according to professionals affiliated with business incubators and accelerators who were asked to share their insights on how to achieve these goals. To comprehensively articulate various challenges, professionals from corporate-sponsored, university-sponsored, for-profit consultant-sponsored, and economic-development-sponsored incubators and accelerators were asked a range of questions including:

  • How do design elements relate to effective lab space?
  • How has their input on design impacted the success of the clients they collaborated with?
  • What are low-cost components of design that yield high impacts? 
  • What general “expert” advice did not quite meet expectations on their projects?
  • What are considered project “must-haves,” especially related to COVID-19?

Design elements and achieved success

Mark Long, director of incubation services at UF Innovate, a group of four organizations that seeks to move research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, emphasizes the placement of a central laboratory space for shared equipment as a “tremendous attraction” for clients. “We have a laboratory full of shared equipment in the middle of the building, including low-temperature freezers, walk-in cold rooms, a fluorescent microscopy room, UV spectrophotometry, and a host of other equipment we have purchased,” he says. “Many of our clients tell us what a huge plus it is for them to be able to access this equipment at no charge, as our resident clients have free access.” 

Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs created this co-working laboratory space to help connect scientific entrepreneurs with their potential investors or collaborators.
Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs created this co-working laboratory space to help connect scientific entrepreneurs with their potential investors or collaborators.

General demand also exists for “single-pass” air, chemical fume hoods, and biological safety cabinets, adds Long. “We have the typical HEPA-filtered, high-capacity HVAC systems with UV sanitization chambers,” he says. “I believe the reason for the demand for single-pass air and fume hoods relates to the number of companies using organic solvents on a regular basis.”

At Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, a co-working space for science startups based in New Jersey, Beth Rowley, PhD, director of operations, likewise says that access to specialized equipment for biotech companies, including incubators, freezers, shared biohoods, and chemical fume hoods is key, and all are included as part of rent. “Our fully equipped tissue culture labs and cold storage area are also quite attractive to people because it means they don’t have to purchase this equipment for themselves,” Rowley adds. “In addition to this infrastructure equipment, we also provide access to many scientific instruments. Our most popular instrument is our Attune NxT flow cytometer.”

As Osha puts it, space provides an advantage when it allows for a concentration of people and ideas. He is seeing more development of “public realm”-type spaces such as gathering spaces, lobbies, and cafés—and more recently, outdoor plazas and exterior campus spaces. “A project that we are currently working on in Philadelphia restores one of the plazas from the original William Penn plan for west Philadelphia,” he says. “It will become the fabric that ties together more than 1.5 million square feet currently under development at uCity Square.”

Space provides an advantage when it allows for a concentration of people and ideas.

Jonathan M. Varholak, vice chairman at CBRE Inc., a full-service commercial real estate firm that provides solutions to property owners, investors, and occupiers, also notes a number of space trends, such as suite sizes of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet for “Series A” companies, modular utilities in ceilings for making fit-outs easier, and office space being very open with access to light. One client, AstraZeneca’s BioHub in Boston, incorporated a park-like setting with the idea to attract tenants from an urban setting to the suburbs. All amenities required were self-contained on the campus, an even more desirable aspect given the spread of COVID-19 today, Varholak says. 

uCity Square unites a knowledge community of more than 1.5 million square feet and restores one of the plazas from the original William Penn plan for West Philadelphia.
uCity Square unites a knowledge community of more than 1.5 million square feet and restores one of the plazas from the original William Penn plan for West Philadelphia.

Similarly, Paul Parker, director of the Technology Incubation Program (TIP) at the University of Connecticut, boasts an “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program, through which each tenant receives one-on-one, personalized support to develop business plans and fundraising strategies. They are each provided an entrepreneurial/mentor but encouraged to build relationships with the entire team of entrepreneurs who each possess unique traits that can vary from the ability to raise funds, build business relationships, write a business plan, or take calculated risks. Access to specialized equipment and state-of-the-art labs remains a huge draw for UConn incubator companies, says Parker. “We open doors for our companies through research facilities like an in-house vivarium, but one of the greatest needs is connections to top researchers and investors and individualized business support,” Parker says. “Simply providing the space is not enough to help companies succeed anymore.

All told, lab design must appease safety, ethical, and security measures. There’s also an element of reputation. Leading researchers want to trail-blaze and be known for advancing science through discovery. But those “eureka” moments are less likely to be a single scientist’s work today and building design should lend to that collaborative environment. 

Recommendations and missed-the-mark expectations

Other attempts at optimizing space missed the mark. For example, “Putting in central systems, such as natural gas and compressed air and vacuum, is no longer, in our opinion, a reasonable option,” says Long. “These systems are expensive to maintain and repair, and very few resident clients ever use them. At Princeton, Rowley says several fume hoods were removed during construction, which “was a mistake.” “Many people prefer to have their own designated fume hood, rather than a shared hood,” she says. “We could also use more storage space.”

Osha says a concern is when architects and engineers “over-engineer” buildings that result in spaces that are too expensive than true intended use dictates, and that he does not get involved in such details as air-change rates and chilled beams. “I remind my team that rental rates must perform to the market analysis, which makes small projects in rural locations outside of known clusters challenging,” he says.

Leading researchers want to trail-blaze and be known for advancing science through discovery. But those “eureka” moments are less likely to be a single scientist’s work today and building design should lend to that collaborative environment. 

Low costs, high impacts

Allowing tenants to access common space was also deemed a big incentive, at least prior to COVID-19, says Varholak. Additionally, Rowley shares that conference rooms, phone rooms, “quiet rooms,” and lecture events were popular and sought out by tenants pre-COVID. At UF Innovative, a temperature-controlled greenhouse, complete with a seedling growth room and mudroom, has been added. “These have been used extensively, as the availability of rental greenhouse space is apparently a rare commodity,” says Long. Rowley promotes the interior design at Princeton, noting the lighting and furniture was “very modern and eye catching.” Many applicant companies want an impressive space where they can meet with investors or collaborators, and that other lab spaces they have looked at are much more utilitarian and “don’t provide the ‘wow’ factor they want for their business,” she says. 

At Sid Martin Biotech, a UF Innovate facility based in Alachua, FL, availability of a vivarium (a structure adapted for keeping animals under semi-natural conditions for study) and the university’s equipment lab, both at reduced costs, has allowed companies access to expensive, complex equipment, such as electron microscopy, says Long. “The use of the vivarium has been feast or famine,” he says. “The facility is at capacity currently, with many studies being undertaken. It’s certainly an attraction factor, and there is no substitute.”

Lab professionals are inherently more interested in advancing their research than what the space looks like, but that space should subconsciously feel open and easily shared even if COVID-19 prevents the amount of access professionals have with one another currently.

Future-focused

Biotech, chemistry, and nanotechnology professionals have long been trained to work in hazardous spaces. They can’t collaborate in the same sense that Wozniak and Jobs notoriously once did, but they can continue to benefit from today’s most successful business incubators and accelerators that are willing to pave the way for others through the promotion of successful and unsuccessful elements related to design space, the overall impact of space on research and collaboration, and the typical “traps” that are not necessary and that can be avoided. Lab professionals are inherently more interested in advancing their research than what the space looks like, but that space should subconsciously feel open and easily shared even if COVID-19 prevents the amount of access professionals have with one another currently.


This article was originally published on Lab Manager.

Trends in Retail Success: Pay Attention to the Data

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Part I of II (Read Part II)

Clicks to Bricks retailer Warby Parker storefront in Cincinnati, OH
Warby Parker in Cincinnati, OH

The “Clicks to Bricks” (C2B) movement is gaining significant momentum. It wasn’t long ago that only a handful of direct to consumer brands (DTC) expanded into the physical retail space. Today, dozens have ventured from an entirely digital presence to opening brick-and-mortar locations.

Even with COVID-19 procedures and the uncertainty around re-opening measures, the C2B model has advantages over traditional retail, especially in providing a seamless integration between online and retail shopping. Due to the lack of available real data about consumers who shopped both on a brand’s digital online site and at its physical retail store, BHDP Architecture (Cincinnati) initiated research to learn more about shoppers’ online and retail store behaviors. The data uncovered offers both C2B and traditional retailers invaluable insights into the behaviors of these shoppers.

BHDP crafted a research hypothesis, developed the questionnaire, and engaged an independent, online market research firm to gather input from 1000 U.S. shoppers between February and March 2020. These shoppers were older than 18 and had previous or current experience shopping either online or in a retail store from a list of established C2B retail brands in the clothing, eyewear, cosmetics, jewelry and sleep product categories that have recently moved into the brick-and-mortar space. The brands included Adore Me, Alex and Ani, Allbirds, Athleta, Blue Nile, Bonobos, Casper, Everlane, Glossier, Indochino, Thirdlove, Untuckit and Warby Parker.

The main objectives of this study included:

  1. Uncovering the influences and differences in shopper behaviors when shopping on a brand’s online site and at their brick-and-mortar retail stores.
  2. Understanding C2B shopper perceptions relative to the translation of a digitally native brand from online to offline.
  3. Identifying opportunities to enhance the in-store experience and better align it with the online brand experience.

Research Findings from Clicks to Bricks Shoppers

After analyzing the data, it’s unsurprising that the majority of shoppers who completed this questionnaire made their first purchase from the participating retailers via online. While one-half of these C2B shoppers prefer to shop online, it appears that many are embracing the C2B brand’s physical presence with 23 percent of them indicating they now prefer to shop in store.

Of those shoppers who would rather shop in store instead of online, 59 percent wanted the ability to compare and confirm specifics such as fit, color and texture, while 48 percent were influenced by convenient store locations and 41 percent liked the instant gratification of being able to leave with the purchased item. One shopper said, “They should have a wide variety of styles, colors and sizes,” while another stated, “I expect exclusive products, a wide selection of products, convenience and fair prices.” One shopper, who liked being able to shop and have the item the same day, said, “I also like seeing the textures and experiencing the vibe of the store.”

On the other hand, shoppers preferring online shopping selected the no-hassle appeal of virtual shopping (no crowds, parking issues or drive time) as their number one reason for using technology to shop. They also identified the lack of conveniently located stores as a negative for in-store shopping and cited the larger inventory of online platforms (compared to brick-and-mortar retail shops) and the ease of finding clearance or sale items as positives for online shopping. Overall, shoppers expect that items will be the same price and quality whether purchased online or in a retail store. They also expect the retail store to offer similar return policies and customer service as compared to the online site.

While shoppers definitely have online shopping preferences, it is still important to understand why shoppers choose to visit a retail store after making an online purchase from the same brand. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed shopped at the brand’s retail store after purchasing from their online site. The ability to try on the merchandise is a major influencer for shoppers visiting physical stores. Of those who chose to shop at a retail store after making an online purchase, 53 percent wanted to inspect the merchandise, while 37 percent had an interest in seeing how the in-store brand was expressed. Shoppers expect the brand image to be carried over to the retail store and that the store feels like a full shop and not one that is empty or only carries limited products. One shopper stated, “It should be nice and resemble your online shopping experience,” and another explained, “I expect there to be perks to encourage me to shop in store instead of online, like helpful representatives and the ability to try on products.”

“I expect there to be perks to encourage me to shop in store instead of online, like helpful representatives and the ability to try on products.”

Clicks to Bricks shopper

The C2B shopping experience also can influence shoppers to peruse the brand’s online site after making an in-store purchase. Of those surveyed, 68 percent shopped online after purchasing from a brand’s retail store. Many cited inconvenient store location (43 percent), low inventory or weak product assortment (32 percent) and limited store hours (29 percent) as reasons for shopping online. “It’s just that shopping online is more convenient,” said one shopper. Another expressed that the retail store “didn’t have the item I was looking for,” and one shopper explained, “[I] was looking for a certain item and found it online instead.”

The research also collected information about how shoppers felt about both the in-store and online experiences. Almost three-quarters (69 percent) of shoppers who shopped at the brands’ retail stores after making an online purchase believed that the in-store brand matched the online brand. This was primarily due to product availability (63 percent) and the décor or aesthetics of the retail space (33 percent).

“I expect the in-store aesthetic to be similar to the colors and design of the website,” said one shopper. Another shopper liked the in-store messaging and explained, “[The] mirror that said, ‘You look good,’ emphasized values of brand in the store creatively, not limited to their online presence.” The majority of these shoppers (89 percent) were extremely or somewhat satisfied with their in-store experience compared to their online experience. “Found exactly what I was looking for, and if I couldn’t, staff was happy to help. Much like search bar online,” said one shopper. Less than 2 percent of shoppers were somewhat or extremely unsatisfied with their in-store experience. The vast majority of shoppers who had a negative in-store experience were disappointed in the brick-and-mortar store’s product availability. “A better variety of products online than in store,” said one shopper while another stated, “There has to be a big reason for me to go into the store.”

“[The] mirror that said, ‘You look good,’ emphasized values of brand in the store creatively, not limited to their online presence.”

Clicks to Bricks Shopper
Glossier Instagram post of a shopper taking a selfie in a mirror that says "YOU LOOK GOOD"
“YOU LOOK GOOD” mirror featured on Glossier’s Instagram.

Half of these C2B shoppers stated that access to in-store personalized customer service affects their decision to visit a brick-and-mortar store. Shoppers are fairly divided about how much personal attention they want from sales representatives when shopping in store. Forty percent said it varies by what they’re purchasing, 36 percent want minimal attention and 23 percent preferred one-on-one customer service. However, 5 percent of shoppers said it is important to be able to order online from a sales representative while shopping in store.

Only 22 percent of online shoppers indicated they would not shop in store if there was a retail store in their region, while 50 percent of online shoppers preferred to shop in store and 28 percent said that it makes no difference. Travel time to a retail store impacts their decision whether to shop in store or online, with 7 percent tolerating a 30-minute or less trip to the retail store.

Although this raw data presents interesting facts and figures as it stands alone, the true value emerges when context is added and the shopper behaviors become tools for successful retail store design. As mentioned prior, a team of retail strategists and store designers at BHDP analyzed the survey’s findings and synthesized the most relevant data into a strategic roadmap for retailers. The analysis and recommendations will be offered as follow-up to this piece.


This article was originally published on VMSD.com.

Read Part II.