TORONTO – While online shopping has been growing at an exponential rate in the last decade, globally-recognized companies from Apple to Rogers to Canada Goose continue to open large, experience-based brick-and-mortar stores to keep customers buying their products.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales in 2019 still only account for approximately 10 per cent of all retail sales.
Ryerson expert in Canadian marketing Brent Barr says the numbers are similar in Canada as well.
“There is a premise that everything has been moved to online and it really hasn’t. It’s still very much in-store, brick-and-mortar is still the dominant force of retail,” said Barr.
Rogers is opening a new flagship store in the heart of Dundas Square on Thursday that will rely on in-store experiences like the Google space where one can test smart home products and a music hall where a Canadian singer makes a surprise appearance as a hologram.
While some might question the addition of a 9,000 square foot space to Rogers’ already extensive retail footprint, Barr says brick-and-mortar stores continue to have an advantage.
“Retail is still a contact sport. It’s the touch and feel, the feeling of what I’m buying,” said Barr. Especially larger companies like Rogers and Apple who don’t care whether you buy in-store or online as long as you are buying their product.
Retailers, like the new “Rogers 302” store in Toronto, are also focusing more on experiencing the products before you buy them to bring consumers into their store.
One example of this is Canada Goose. The coat brand opened a store at Sherway Gardens earlier this month that doesn’t actually sell any products but replicates a cold Canadian winter to show consumers how their winter coats work.
WATCH: Canada Goose opens a store that has snow but no jackets
Bruce Herscovici, VP of Branded Retail at Rogers, says the Dundas Square location will rely heavily on creating an experience.
“With just how technology is exploding, the number of connected devices people have, with 5G coming, it’s really an opportunity for us to showcase for our customers how it really comes to life,” he said. “This is just unique, coming here you can actually get answers to all your questions and hands-on experience with the technology.”
President of Wireless at Rogers, Brent Johnston, added the store is “really anchored around demonstrations and immersive experiences that show the power of 5G and what you can do on the network.”
“This store’s about telling that story.”
Apple is also opening a new larger store in the Eaton Centre. The technology giant has also remained focused on the experience of its retail stores. On their website, they invite consumers to “experience the digital lifestyle.”
They also provide workshops in-store to give shoppers the chance to take photography and video workshops, coding classes and how to create music, all using Apple products.
Barr says experience retailing isn’t a new concept, but “those businesses that figure that out, whether it would be manufacturers like Apple or retailers like Hudson’s Bay if they can figure out how to create that level of branding with experience, they are going to win.”
“The reason why the experience mindset is working is because they are trying to give you the experience to make you want to go and buy their business,” said Barr.
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