As reported in a recent Retail Dive article reflecting on key takeaways from NRF’s 2020 Big Show, physical retail is experiencing a “comeback” of sorts. Though industry commentary has been refuting the “retail apocalypse” for years now, the offline channel continues to offer compelling new reasons for the importance of physical stores, including cost of customer acquisition, digital communication fatigue, and the old fashioned need for human connection.

Reduced ROI on digital customer acquisition: Direct-to-consumer (DTC) was once a low-cost model that dangled the dream of high profit margins for brands whose digital storytelling would pay off in e-commerce transactions. As more and more brands invested in digital, advertising rates on popular social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook skyrocketed, raising the cost of customer acquisition to a disproportionate level. In this context, a physical footprint is no longer looking like a high overhead cost.

Deluge of retailer brand media: Communication from even our favorite retailers is hitting a point of extreme consumer fatigue. Retail Futurist Doug Stephens spoke on Day 1 of NRF and reflected on digital advertising losing its “edge,” even as it becomes more prolific, as reported by Retail Dive. “We are swimming in a sea of media and communication from brands,” he said, and “stores are the new channel for retail.” Hearing a Futurist call stores a “new channel” brings an intriguing perspective the reintroduction of brick and mortar into the 2020 conversation.

Consumers are seeking human connection: This brings us to the enduring theme of the need for human connection, which only seems to strengthen as digital gets more pervasive. Even as the online channel expands its share of transactions, industry reports continue to reveal up to 90% of purchases in some retail categories still taking place in-store. It comes of little surprise that we’re seeing a resurgence of consumers seeking out a more personal connection with the brand, one that can’t be replicated online.

At Nudge, we believe strongly in the influence of store associates in the ongoing “human factor” of brand affinity. Read more in our Lookbook, written especially for experience-driven brands who are seeking more meaningful experiences for their customers through their physical footprint.