Does Ecommerce Growth Harm Physical Stores?

ecommerce vs brick and mortar

Ecommerce and online shopping are on the rise, faster than ever before and much more rapidly than anyone could have ever predicted. Today’s young adults (or millennials) have been brought up with the internet and have relied more on online shopping than any other generation, using the internet to take advantage of deals and complete simply day-to-day tasks.

This is not going to slow down for the next generation and will only keep growing. So, with such prospects, how can physical stores be expected to keep up? Ecommerce is taking hold and some even daresay taking over.

Are physical stores in danger?

Some physical stores are now experimenting with new, innovative ways to bring people through their doors. For example, lots of stores now have a shopper controlled music system, are pet-friendly or have other means of entertainment such as photo booths or interactive product displays. Plus, many physical stores have in-store booths which can be used to actually shop through online experience!

The main goal of physical stores should be to enhance the shopping experience and make it attractive to potential customers. The atmosphere, interaction with customers and discovery of new products are all things which are not as engaging online.

One store which does this well – and always has – is LUSH, the cosmetics giant, who has all of its products on display, out of their packaging. The store is a colorful display of delightful smells and product demonstrations from friendly and engaging staff. It makes shopping enjoyable.

Nike has also gone to some lengths to drive up foot traffic. It has recently introduced a new innovative idea which allows customers to customize their shoes online and then collect them later that day – so much quicker and immediate than ordering them online and then waiting for up to two weeks to arrive in the mail.

How do online shopping companies impact physical stores?

There are many tools and tricks which online stores are using to negatively impact on retail companies who rely on their physical presence more than their online one. There are a few stand out ways which all companies need to be aware of.

  1. Online Reviews

Online reviews make it easier than ever for a potential customer to decide whether he or she wants to buy your product. Before the days of online reviews, you would often have to ask friends or family about a product. Now, consumers can quite easily search on a brand’s website or social media pages to see reviews and recommendations.

  1. Online Engagement

The key benefit to having an online presence is that a handful of employees can engage with a huge number of potential customers from all across the world. Online engagement is not just about talking to customers but also about posting enthusiastic, emotive and engaging posts which convey a message and sell the product. This helps to build brand loyalty and connections with customers and it is not something which can easily be done on the same scale in physical stores.

  1. Smartphones

Smartphones are a powerful tool which goes a long way to influence shoppers, even when the customer is physically in your store! It is all too common to see a customer walking around a store with the smartphone in her hand, reviewing and comparing products she sees in the store to online offerings (with attached reviews). This can make a big difference in making a sale online or in-store.

Benefits of In-Store Shopping v Online Shopping

Still, the benefits of in-store shopping at physical locations cannot be understated. When you go to a store, you can see the product there, physically, in all its glory for yourself. You can hold it, manipulate it and ask questions to staff. You are able to get a true feel of it before committing to a purchase. This is especially important when buying clothes, for example.

  • In-store, you are able to find the right fit, try on clothes or get a true feel for the product before you buy it. You know exactly what you are getting. You also do not need to wait for the product to arrive, because you can take it home straight away and use it instantly.

  • However, in-store shopping takes time. A couple of hours planned shopping can turn into a full day and long checkout lines only add to this. Plus, in-store shopping can obliterate your budget because you will be more inclined to buy something which you do not need or were not planning on buying.

However, when you shop online, you have the benefit of comparing an endless catalog of thousands – if not millions – of brands and products in one place. If you’re not sure what you are looking for, you do not need to travel from place to place looking for the best deal or the right product; it’s right there at your fingertips. Product review pages like <a href="">Shopping FM</a> and discount sites like Groupon can make buying online socially engaging and rewarding, at the same time.

  • Online, you can shop in your own time and you do not need to take time out of your day to do it. You can do it on your break at work, on the bus or just before you go to sleep. Plus, you are able to easily compare thousands of products instantly, read reviews and watch videos about it.

  • The drawback, however, is that a good deal can easily be wiped out by shipping costs and signing up to a brand’s website with your email address can lead to spam emails as they try and entice you back to buy more.

So, what is the Future?

It is clear to see that the growth of ecommerce and online shopping has had an impact on physical stores – it has harmed them to some degree. However, this is a natural part of living in a digitally connected world where everything is dynamic and ever-changing.

Physical stores need to adapt to survive. They are not dead, however. Physical shopping is still alive and well. Just take a walk to your closest city or store on a weekend or during the holidays and you will see thousands of people perusing around shops, going about their business and making purchases.

Although the popularity of physical stores has declined somewhat, they are far from dead or dying and still draw in thousands of people per year. Many brands are beginning to take note of the challenges they face with the growth of ecommerce and online shopping, and now have a large presence on social media challenges. Although the physical shopping experience may have dwindled, these brands have not exactly suffered harm because of it; they have thrived.

The growth of ecommerce is forcing brands to adapt their stores and make them more physically engaging and entertaining. They are no longer just a mean to display your products on sale. This is a good thing and only goes to improve the overall shopping experience.

To learn more about the growth of ecommerce and some interesting facts about online vs offline shopping, check out our infographic below!