It's time to give DIY shoppers better in-store experiences – they deserve it

By Simon Hathaway, MD EMEA at Outform.

European home and DIY digital retailer ManoMano posted soaring 2020 sales recently, which is no biggie given that DIY has emerged as an undisputed winner in lockdown. What’s notable is the fact that the uptick has been driven by UK sales, which grew by 240% year on year to £105 million. It’s moot, though, because the UK DIY market has traditionally been driven by in-store sales.

A DIY boom spurred on by lockdown is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s encouraging to see Brits pick up their spackle and brushes, and even better to see the subsequent boost to profits. On the other, there are concerns about the industry’s future - especially as the re-opening of non-essential stores draws near. 

The move to online purchase driven by necessity has been well-documented, as has the red flag the trend represents to traditional DIY brands and retailers. But Outform’s research, which canvassed more than 3,000 respondents across mainland Europe, the UK and US, found that an overwhelming 93% of customers prefer to purchase DIY products in-store; without question then, shoppers do still value face-to-face interaction with the experts, not least in sectors like DIY. So how do we capitalise on this edge?

A good starting point is to acknowledge that customer expectations have been changed irrevocably by a year of buying digitally. We expect speed across all points of our journey, from finding what we need at near-warp speed, right through to paying for it via contactless means. We want the expertise of the staff in-store. We don’t want the drudgery of having to hunt for the basics - or anything, in fact.

Pain points in-store are pretty straightforward. Again, according to Outform’s research, four in ten of us say we struggle to find the DIY products we need in-store; half of us feel the range on the shelves is too limited; and perhaps most importantly, store layout currently just doesn’t chime with how we shop today, as 60% of consumers shop for DIY by project not product.

Tech can help solve these issues, and help to marry the benefits of online with the advantages of instore. Implemented correctly, it can also be the starting point of a better customer experience - a digital handshake where customer data is shared between online and instore formats to make the retail experience seamless.

Better mobile integration means data-rich tools - in-app guidance offering location, stock levels and clear information prior to finding the item, or interactive maps like those found in shopping malls - are all accessible now and present marked improvements to the in-store experience.

There are clear solutions to customers’ genuine safety concerns too. 38% of shoppers responding to our survey say the humble QR code will make them feel safer in-store, given it’s a simple, touchless method to get all the information you need while maintaining social distance.

When it comes to merchandising and store layout, no physical space can match ManoMano’s 100-million product inventory, so the win is in ensuring that inventory is merchandised by project, rather than product lines - in line with how 60% of us shop. 

What’s evident is that this is the moment for retailers to use technology to shake up how they engage customers, especially when 63% of them are already professing interest in interactive displays like touchscreens and QR-activated content if they were available. 

From initial category exploration to virtual receipts, placing the bulk of experience inside a customer’s phone is a sure-fire way to entice them back to the retail park. There’s work to be done to make this scenario a reality for the bulk of retail categories - just how much work is evident in the fact that eight in ten shoppers use mobile devices in-store, but just two in ten use those brand apps for basic functions like price comparisons and product availability.

With predicted DIY fatigue on the rise, it’s time to overhaul the DIY store format. Our purchase experience now spans multiple offline and online touchpoints. Successful DIY retail will accommodate that by understanding that while the store plays a role, it isn’t always the point of sale - it's as much an opportunity for people to interact with products in ways they just can’t do purely online. This is how retailers with physical estates can start to level the playing field with the pure-play digital giants like ManoMano.

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