Editor's Comment

Going omnichannel: mapping the changing relationship between the store and online

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re thinking hard about the changing relationship between stores and online. Do we still need stores in a world where online shopping is expanding so much more quickly than store sales, as evidenced in this week’s ONS Retail Sales report for April 2017. In that story we quote one commentator who suggests that, on its current trajectory, online shopping is set to see the closure of up to 50% of existing high street stores by 2030. We also report this week on leading retailers and property developers who have different visions of the future of shopping.

Firstly, we have some useful insights into how online shopping is affecting bricks-and-mortar stores from retail developers and operators British Land and Land Securities Group, both with full-year results out this week. One interesting insight from British Land is that online is polarising shopping destinations: shoppers who buy online, it seems, either want local centres where they can drop by quickly to pick up their online orders, or they want regional destinations where they can go for a meal, enjoy a leisure activity and, while they’re there, drop into a few shops.

At retailers Mothercare, Moss Bros and Burberry, the emphasis is very much on the store as part of the seamless omnichannel experience. These are stores where shoppers can collect or place an online order, where they go to try something on before completing a customer journey that started online, or where they ask for expert advice.

Our guest comment today comes from Rob Carle of DS Smith UK Packaging as he considers the balance between the luxury store experience and the online experience.

If we have conclusions to take from our coverage today, it’s that stores still play an important part in the shopping experience, and continue to do so in the future. But only some of today’s stores will stay relevant to the seamless crosschannel shopping journey – and those that don’t will close. Which stay relevant will largely depend on their location, while some stores will stay important primarily because they have omnichannel services such as click and collect, while also enabling shoppers to return their online orders to the store. Those stores won’t need to be as big as they are today, but they will need the expert in-store assistance and truly useful technology that shoppers will soon expect as a matter of course, if they don’t already.

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