Why do customers prefer online stores to brick and mortar locations?
Over the past decade, online sales have skyrocketed into the retail marketplace, bringing along with it a healthy dose of competition to the brick and mortar stores of old. As digital content replaces physical and Amazon is more frequently chosen over the local mall, it might be worth taking a closer look at what makes cyber shopping so much more popular than the old fashioned way.
Pros and Cons
Online retailers often have lower overhead and have been very good at offering competitive prices, but physical stores still win hands down when it comes to same day service. Overall, customers still develop more loyalty to stores they visit in person and are more likely to overspend when shopping offline as well.
Nevertheless, eCommerce in general has been steadily growing since 2004 and shows no sign of waning. Amazon has already announced plans for their 30 minute delivery drones and recently patented "anticipatory shipping", which will somehow deliver packages before they are ordered (presumably in a DeLorean). Brick and Mortar will need to remain competitive in the same day service arena if it hopes to endure the changing marketplace.
A 2013 survey by Continuum, revealed that the number one motivating factor for both online and in store shopping is convenience. People don't want the process of purchasing to feel like a chore and will usually choose the path of least resistance, even if it means paying more money. In fact, price was third on the list, meaning that the area in which it is most difficult for physical stores to compete is only a factor one quarter of the time.
However, 'showrooming', the process of shopping in store then buying online, continues to be an issue worth fighting, and retailers who make buying in store more appealing are less likely to fall victim to the online undercutting.
How Can 'Brick' Compete with 'Click'?
One of the key benefits of online retailers is their convenience and flexibility. You can easily compare and contrast brands, prices and even colors within seconds of an item catching your eye. The real world scenario requires much more effort on behalf of the consumer for a similar, often inferior, experience. Some stores are switching over to cutting edge POS systems, such as Shopify. This software allows a customer to browse and compare a digital inventory from right inside the store. It also streamlines the business end of the transaction by minimizing the labor and time normally required to assist an indecisive shopper.
Traditional stores would also be wise to create more of a hybrid shopping experience, mixing online shopping and in-store purchases. Major retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy were among the first to blend the two worlds. As Amazon further encroaches into their territory, physical retailers would do well to improve their customer's experience in-store by increasing speed, selection and quality service.
What Does the Future Look Like?
It seems unlikely that eCommerce will ever completely shutout Brick and Mortar, but times are definitely changing. Expect to see physical stores reducing costs by shrinking down the size of their locations, like FedEx/Kinkos and Dressbarn.
Additionally, with the continued expansion of the Internet of Things, we can anticipate the lines to blur between online and in-store retail. Customers may soon find themselves enjoying the intimacy of an in-store experience with the immediacy and convenience of shopping online as shipping times grow faster and inventories wider.
Author Bio: Camille McClane is a writer, researcher and editor, who frequently blogs about about web hosting and social media. Her favorite subject to focus on is emerging technology trends and its overall effect within business expansion and relations. She hopes the readers of Business.com enjoy this article as much as she enjoyed writing it.
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