Trends & insights
Apr 6, 20214 min read

What shoppers want from brick-and-mortar stores this year.

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by Klarna

While 2020 was a year of disruption for physical retail, in-store shopping is certainly not dead. In fact, it’s very much alive: according to the latest figures from Coresight Research, store openings are outpacing closures so far in 2021, with US retailers planning to collectively open 3,344 new stores this year. That’s almost 40% more openings than were announced this time last year (Retail Dive). 

So as shoppers return to retail stores, the real question is: what will the new in-store experience look like given the shift in consumer behavior brought on by the pandemic? And what do today’s digitally savvy shoppers really want from physical stores this year? Klarna’s latest consumer survey of over 41,000 shoppers aimed to answer these questions. Here’s what we discovered.

Consumers miss the tangible, interactive elements of in-store shopping. 

We have good news for retailers unsure if shoppers will ever return to their brick-and-mortar stores: nearly 80% of shoppers want to be able to try on clothes again in stores this year. This suggests that after over a year spent at home, shoppers are craving human interaction and miss the physical elements of shopping that can only be offered in a brick-and-mortar setting. 

Shoppers also agreed that there is nothing quite like browsing store aisles to find and try new items. According to our survey, another top reason consumers prefer physical stores to online or mobile channels is because of how easy it is to discover new products (56%). 

Brick-and-mortars have an instant gratification advantage.

Sure, shipping and delivery speeds are getting faster, but shopping in-store is still the fastest way for consumers to purchase the products they are coveting. 67% of shoppers agree that this instant gratification advantage is what is driving them to shop in physical stores versus other retail sales channels. 

Wondering how this translates to Gen Z and Millennial shoppers? Our survey also found that younger generations appreciate the speed and efficiency of physical stores more than older shoppers: the ability to purchase and return items quickly is more important to Millennials (purchase: 72%, return: 36%) and Gen Zers (purchase: 70%, return: 40%) than it is to Gen Xers (purchase: 65%, return: 30%) and Boomers (purchase: 60%, return: 30%). To stand out to shoppers in younger demographics, retailers should make sure that their stores are optimized for easy – and speedy! – checkouts, returns and exchanges. 

Touchless is now table stakes. 

Of the technologies embraced by physical retail stores during the pandemic, contactless payments and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) options are overwhelming favorites. 

81% of shoppers agree that the availability of BOPIS has improved their shopping experience, while 61% say that contactless payments have also elevated their experience in physical stores. Expect these touchless, convenience-driven technologies to become a permanent part of the physical retail experience—and, if you haven’t already, it’s time to integrate them into your in-store shopping journey, ASAP.

… and don’t forget about QR codes.

Speaking of digital innovation, remember Quick Response codes? While only 48% of survey respondents had used QR codes while shopping, 79% of shoppers who had used them said that the technology improved their shopping experience. This suggests that while the technology—used for payments, product information, and more—hasn’t taken off yet, it shows serious promise as a useful, value-adding platform that retailers should consider as shoppers return to stores. 

Safety is now #1.

Safety will remain a top concern for shoppers headed to physical retail stores, even as vaccines are rolled out more widely. Our survey found that 77% of shoppers would like hand sanitizing stations permanently adopted by physical retail stores, and 21% of shoppers would also like temperature checks to be integrated permanently in-store. Many older shoppers would also like to see plastic barriers remain at checkout (46% of Boomers).


It’s time to adapt your in-store experience to provide shoppers with greater confidence, convenience, and peace of mind. Klarna in-store is already supporting more than 60,000 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, and we’d love for yours to be next. If you’re ready to grow your business with happy returning customers and a better shopping experience, get started today.

Let's get your brick-and-mortar strategy back on track.