A few years ago, experts were predicting the death of brick and mortar stores at the hands of e-commerce. Now it’s come full circle and industry experts are predicting a decline in online sales, as internet retailers have begun opening physical stores.
Samsung, Dyson and Seat all previously sold through stockists but are now reaching customers directly through their own store networks.
If your aim is to boost profits, should you invest in the development of your store or put that budget towards your online alter-ego? First, you need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each channel:
Pros of online retail:
- Lower startup costs.
- No physical space, or the costs that come with that (Rent, Utilities, Wages).
- Customers are able to shop without pressure from sales teams.
- Setup is much quicker, so a business can get to selling much quicker.
Cons of online retail:
- You have to spend considerably more on marketing to drive customers through to the website.
- It’s harder to build meaningful interactions with your customers as there’s no face to face interaction.
- Customers can’t touch and try products.
Pros of offline:
- Is still the most popular shopping channel for consumers.
- Gives you instant access to passing trade, without having to invest in a marketing budget.
- Having a great store location can make you easily visible to your target market and can build your brand locally.
Cons of offline:
- Higher setup and running costs are very likely.
- Not picking the correct location could seriously hamper your success, no matter how great your product offering is.
- Store design needs to provide an experience.
So which are you better of investing in to increase your sales?
You might not like the answer but it’s both. It’s clear that neither channel is going to fully wipe out the other because they both offer advantages the other cannot.
(If you really pushed us for an answer we’d say Offline but we’re probably biased).
Online retail is continuing to grow at an astounding rate, yet the majority of people still actually prefer to shop in-store for a wide range of products, so there are still great opportunities for retailers to take advantage of both.
The cons of offline can be overcome by enhancing what consumers have always enjoyed about in-store experiences such as the joy of discovery, atmosphere, scent and tangible interaction.
Offline retail can’t currently be matched by online when it comes to customer experience. With a traditional bricks-and-mortar store, you can craft a unique experience for your customers and express your brand in a creative way.
And while people relish the convenience and vast inventory of online shopping, today’s shoppers are still drawn to physical store locations to touch items, make their purchases and return goods. Not being able to see and try products still deters many online shoppers, meaning offline retail isn’t going anywhere. But there’s a catch…. To get people into your store you have to delight them. You have to provide them with an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Your store design can showcase your brand’s personality and that is what will resonate with passers-by, increase foot traffic and, ultimately, increase sales. In that sense, store design is becoming more important than ever.
E-commerce, though, doesn’t have to have negative effects on physical stores. It just provides another distribution and advertising channel for retailers with offline roots. Rather than pitting the two channels against each other, retailers can increase sales by giving consumers the best of both worlds through the adoption and use of new technologies.
Technology enables customers to continue an online shopping trip offline in the store, and vice versa.
Brands with a brick-and-mortar presence tend to offer a more personal customer experience versus their online-only competition, but they often fall short on convenience and rapid inventory availability. Many brands have embraced technology to counter this and merge online and offline retail. For example, being able to order something online for a quick pick-up in store, combines the best of both worlds.
Pick-up and drop-off (P&D) points are designed to overcome important barriers for online shopping; the payment of shipping costs, and the inconvenience of fixed delivery windows (‘between 7am and 9pm’). But in doing so it increases the footfall of your store. How you get them to stick around for longer is all about excellent retail design!
The future is omni-channel retail.
Whatever shift experts think is currently happening, not responding is not an option. We’re seeing big shifts in customer needs and behaviours, resulting in different roles for stores to play in the future. Customers expect a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels, and retailers need a solid multi-channel plan.
Whether engaging with consumers via mobile with personalized offers when they enter the store or letting them know that an abandoned shopping cart item is now on sale in the store, retailers have a lot to gain by integrating their channel strategies.
The future is definitely omni-channel. Customers are interacting with retailers across many different platforms, both physical and digital. They expect a consistent experience across both.
If you want the biggest hint that we’ve moved past Online Vs Offline, consider how opening new stores drives increases in e-commerce in that store’s trade area, just as closing a store often leads to dramatic declines in online shopping. It’s all just commerce.
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