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GUEST COMMENT Why ecommerce doesn’t have to signal the end of physical retail stores

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GUEST COMMENT Why ecommerce doesn’t have to signal the end of physical retail stores

While consumers may love the ease and convenience of online shopping, there’s something about physical retail stores that keeps them coming back for more, writes Joris Kroese, CEO and Founder of Hatch.

 

It’s no secret that ecommerce has been riding the digital wave of the pandemic throughout the past year, and as such, retail stores (particularly those with no online presence) have suffered.

 

In 2020, UK ecommerce spend was up 46.1% compared to 2019, which is the highest annual growth reported since 2008. However, overall retail sales fell by 1.9%, which is the most significant yearly fall since records began.

The data

As a result of the recent shift in consumer shopping behaviour, Hatch data shows that the number of sales increased up to seven times in some market segments, during the first Covid-19 lockdown (compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) weekend and the Christmas period in 2019).

 

As advocates for online retail, we believe that the past year is just the beginning of ecommerce developments – a taste of what’s to come.

 

Ecommerce News predicts that the shift from physical stores to online retail will continue post-pandemic, but we see it a little differently. While it’s true that ecommerce sales grew amid the closure of online stores, when stores re-opened in England recently after a third lockdown, in-store foot traffic returned.

 

This shows that while consumers may love the ease and convenience of online shopping, there’s still something about physical retail stores that keeps them coming back for more.

What keeps consumers shopping in-store?

So what is it that’s keeping physical stores afloat? And are there certain items consumers will always prefer to purchase in-store?

Expensive/informed purchases

Consumers are still opting to buy more expensive items in physical stores. According to Vend, consumers are making more ‘convenience’ purchases online but continue to purchase luxury, experiential and high-ticket items in person at brick and mortar stores.

Customer support

Attention matters. Many consumers still like to go to physical stores to get advice from product experts before making a purchase decision. Lots of physical stores also offer extra services, such as tech support, which is massively beneficial to customers.

No delivery time

With physical retail stores, there’s no need for customers to wait for their product to be delivered. They can simply pop to the store and take their item straight home. Data from Google reveals that almost 80% of shoppers will go to the physical store to buy an item when they need or want it immediately.

Try before you buy

A survey from Tulip Retail revealed that 77% of respondents believe the biggest advantage of shopping in-store is the ability to touch, try on, and see products. Customers looking to purchase clothing can try items on for size first, saving the hassle of returns. Moreover, customers looking to purchase media devices, such as a sound system or TV, can test out various models in-store and get help and advice from shop assistants.

Retailer benefits of physical stores

While there’s a big push towards ecommerce (and rightly so), brands and retailers can still benefit from having a physical store as well as an online store.

Impulse purchases

Research shows that customers spend more when shopping in-store than when shopping online, with a survey from First Insight revealing that 71% of shoppers spent $50 or more when shopping in-store, compared to just 54% spending more than $50 when shopping online. This is largely down to impulse buying. Another survey by Geoblink found that 65% of respondents agree that in-store discounts or promotions lead them to impulse buy.Building consumer trust

 

Consumers are more likely to question the legitimacy of an online store than a physical store, and this is mostly down to the nature of physical stores. When shopping in-store, consumers can see and feel products in real life, and which builds legitimacy in the brand and their products . This is the biggest part of shopping that ecommerce lacks. No matter how much VR develops, it’ll be difficult for ecommerce stores to match the physical reality of in-store shopping.

In-depth customer service

Customer service and support are just as beneficial to brands and retailers as they are to consumers. In a survey conducted by Tulip Retail, 79% of consumers said that being able to engage with knowledgeable store associates is important. Not only does first-class customer service help create trust between brands and consumers, but it can also aid customer retention.

The future is omni-channel

While ecommerce is growing exponentially, we believe that the future is in omni-channel retail. Omni-channel retail focuses on combining all sales channels and making products available to consumers wherever they choose to shop. There are various pros and cons of ecommerce and physical retail, but when both channels align, it’s a match made in heaven.

 

A great example of how omni-channel retail can aid the customer buying experience is with ‘Where to Buy’ technology. While customers can purchase items instantly with in-store shopping, they can’t always guarantee items will be in stock when they get there. Providing customers with a way to check in-store availability online before travelling to the store saves unnecessary trips and positions brands as both helpful and savvy.

 

The hardship faced by physical retail stores this year is inconceivable, but now that shops across the globe are beginning to reopen, they’ll be able to weather the ecommerce storm by joining forces and offering customers the ultimate buying experience.

Author:

 

Joris Kroese, CEO and Founder of Hatch

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