Big-box stores this holiday season are setting up hot chocolate bars, installing festive photo booths and taking toys out of the box for play dates as they look to offer something to shoppers that they can’t find online.
It is a shift in thinking for stores like Target, Walmart and Toys ‘R’ Us, which historically haven’t offered many perks in stores to keep prices down. But as more sales shift online, they are willing to spend more and step up their game.
“Physical retailers know that to differentiate themselves from the Amazons and Wayfairs of the world, they need to connect from an emotional perspective,” said Matt Sargent, senior vice president with consulting firm Magid. “That is their primary advantage over e-commerce.”
Offering hot chocolate in and of itself is probably not enough to drive people to a store, he acknowledged. But the idea is that if the shopping experience is more pleasant when they’re there, shoppers are more likely to come back and to come back more often.
It also shifts the idea of shopping in a store as simply being a task — something that Amazon can compete quite well on — to being more about inspiration and discovery, Sargent said.
The move hearkens back to why people came to downtown department stores.
Still, it won’t be easy to slow the momentum of Amazon, which by some projections is expected to pick up half of all the growth in holiday sales this year.
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