The Great Debate: Online vs. In-Store
As ecommerce continues to grow, is there still a place for brick and mortar stores to survive, and even thrive?
What’s really going on with retail? Many sources point to the death of the traditional in-store retail environment. After all, ecommerce is growing, driven in large part by a little startup called Amazon, which eMarketer predicts will control nearly 54% of all retail ecommerce by 2019. The increase in online shopping has had a negative impact on some brick and mortar stores, like the closing of Toys R Us, and many Sears and Macy’s stores.
Shoppers Still Turn To Physical Stores
However, there is data to support that physical stores are still important to consumers. If this past year’s holiday shopping results are any indication, shoppers aren’t forgoing stores altogether. ShopperTrak reported a mere 1% decline in retail and shopping center visits on Black Friday year over year. Other stats from 2018 that support the importance of physical retail environments include:
- According to Google, 61% of consumers would rather shop with brands that have a physical location than with brands that are online only. Also, nearly 80% of shoppers go in-store when there is an item they need or want immediately
- 57% of consumers say that the closing of many department stores has negatively impacted their perception of ecommerce (Avionos)
- And then there’s Amazon, now with brick and mortar Amazon Go stores in three cities across the U.S.
Sometimes the in-store experience is all that will do when consumers need to engage with a product in-person before making a decision to buy. Other times, in-store wins because of its immediacy. We have conditioned ourselves to expect ‘things’ to be available to us whenever we want them. So much so that sometimes 2-day, next day, and even same day shipping aren’t soon enough. Nothing is more immediate than going into a store and buying something right now.
Both Are Still Important To Consumers And Marketers
At the end of the day, both in-store and online shopping are important and relevant to consumers, so marketers can’t ignore one or the other. Just as traditional media is evolving rather than going away, the retail space is going through a similar evolution, with new options fueled by consumer behavior and expectations.
Consumers can be on multiple purchase journeys depending on their needs and what inspires them, so successful brands are taking steps to account for shopping wherever and whenever it happens. Whether a brand has an online-only presence or both online and physical locations, these ideas can guide success in today’s landscape:
Be ready to capture people at any stage of their journey
- Make it easy for people to find you or your product in their time of need, whether that’s online or as they’re searching for a physical location to buy or browse
- Have your technical SEO house in order, including Google My Business profiles, to ensure that searchers and search engines can find your website and locations. Google My Business Profiles are one of the first touch-points a brand has with the public, so a complete profile is important.
Create a seamless experience between both online and offline experiences
- Stores that offer online ordering with pickup in-store allow customers to not only forgo the crowds and simplify the shopping experience, but also eliminate the wait (and boxes!) of shipping
Use online data to fuel and customize the in-store experience
- Room and Board used search data to change the name of their furniture pieces based on what searchers were looking for
- Maui Jim sunglasses is reported to have used local search data to stock the most popular sunglass styles at its retail stores, ensuring that customers would find the product available when they were ready to buy
As with any marketing plan, one size never fits all potential consumers. In the retail space, it’s important to remember that both in-store and online are still viable options for today’s consumers. Using data to back up your marketing strategy will ensure that consumers can find you no matter their shopping preference.