Websites will never completely replace stores

imgresOver the past several decades, much has changed in retail businesses. With constant revolutions in technology, E-commerce has become a major factor in business sales. Consumers now have capability to research stores, products, reviews, ratings, prices, inventory and specs online. This data allows consumers to access a wider range of options for “where” to buy from, just from searching the web. However, with all the choice and consumer empowerment that E-commerce enhances, physical stores are predicted to remain as the most important aspect of retail businesses.

In a 2014 Capgemini study consumers were surveyed on their preferences of shopping methods. The majority of consumers’ first choice was traditional in-store experiences, and was followed by retailers’ websites. E-commerce only accounts for 7 percent of U.S. retail sales. Study shows that human desire to see, and touch things while shopping is evident. There is also distinctive connection between the consumer and the brand that can be experienced only through in-store interactions. E-Commerce only businesses, like Amazon, eBay, Google, are aware of the limited experience and connection that comes from only distributing through the internet, and have taken efforts to reach customers through pop-up stores, and trucks. Companies like Amazon, and Warby Parker embrace that in-store and online experiences don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Instead, a symbiosis relationship can exist, where consumers invite online experiences into the physical store.

Popular online experiences that consumers want extended in stores include inventory visibility, in-store pickup, drop/ship home delivery, app and loyalty integration, and online/in-store community building. E-commerce has revolutionized inventory visibility for consumers. And now, consumers expect and like to ‘see” if a local store has a desired item in-stock before visiting the store. Home Depot is a primary example that allows consumers to search, on their e-commerce web, the availability of certain items at their local store. In-store pickup is also a major sales driven potential extending e-commerce to retail stores. In-store pickup potentially reduces shipping costs, increases foot traffic and encourages add-on sales. And for consumers gives them opportunity to recognize items as wanted or unwanted items after purchase, giving them access to potentially “return” items directly after shipment. Drop/Home Delivery allows for more convenience for consumers, and can potentially drive check averages. Consumers can conveniently shop without having to worry about transporting in-store purchases home through methods of “pick up later” or “home delivery.” App and loyalty integration is an aspect of business that is becoming trendier, and expected by consumers. In both online, in-store purchases customers should receive loyalty points, have personalized product recommendations, and promotional information. This integration can retain customers, and build traffic.

Retail Owners and companies have now shifted their focus on how they can combine the best of online and in-store distribution methods to deliver the best possible customer experience.

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