The way we’re shopping is changing. The distinction between shopping online and in a store is getting hazy, “whether it’s searching on a laptop, browsing main street shops, or hanging out at the mall – it’s all shopping” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce. And that’s the way forward – a multi-channel business where brick and mortar stores are to be supplemented with online businesses. Kevin Hoffman, president of online at Home Depot, said “very rarely is a customer purely online or purely brick and mortar, you’re bouncing between these different channels.” Increasingly, physical retail outlets are moving more towards branding and away from just retail alone. Businesses need to “recognise that in order to ‘fully actualize’ their brands, they need to animate a physical presence and visceral experience for their customers” – Stephen, Bonobos. Retailers are also offering maximum convenience to shoppers by using stores to fulfil online orders; letting customers collect from the nearest outlet. Mr Masud at Staples noted that “having stores and online is a huge benefit, but only if you leverage those resources . . . If you don’t have a fully integrated experience, those assets are not utilised.”
Online sales make up 10% of retail sales and it is steadily increasing every year by 16%. The popularity of online shopping can be accounted to time-efficiency, convenience and incorporation of social network. Social plays a big role in e-commerce. It influences purchase decisions by showing shoppers what people with similar interests think about that particular item; providing validation. During festive seasons when malls are at their most crowded, buying online offers the ease of shopping for gifts and shipping directly to the people receiving the gifts, saving them the need to lug purchases around.
The biggest advantage a store has over shopping online is the shoppers’ ability to interact with the product. Unlike being at a physical outlet, online shoppers are unable to try on products to see how it fits. While a great location is one of the determining factor of how well a brick and mortar store does, it is not too different for an e-commerce shop. An online store does not have a physical address, it is determined by how easy it is to find on the web (via good search ranking system for keywords, social media presence, etc.) If done well, it has the potential to reach customers from all over the world.
There are many online retailers who established a name for themselves without brick and mortar shops. This is what the reach and power of an e-commerce store can achieve together with the accessibility of the internet. If you haven’t hopped on the e-commerce bandwagon, you might be left behind!