Contrary to most opinions, brick-and-mortar stores still exist and are not going anywhere anytime soon. No, this is not an emotional narrative that’s conveniently ignoring the reality, but it’s a reflection of what consumers think and how the traditional (offline) retail market has been performing in the past few years, despite the presence of online retail stores growing every year. To learn more, checkout this infographic created by Rutgers University’s Online Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration program.
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Retail Sales Growth Over the Years
In 2014, global retail sales (including online and in-store sales) were $22.5 trillion, of which retail e-commerce accounted for 5.9 percent, which is approximately $1.32 trillion. By the year 2018, that market share is expected to rise up to 8.8 percent, still being a fraction when compared to the total in-store purchases made.
America was the second biggest retail e-commerce market in the world in 2014 (trailing China), having spent almost $300 million online. And it’s projected the States would continue to stay in the second position even in 2018, spending $482 million on online retail shopping. 2018 is expected to be the year when almost 70 percent of the American population would purchase online. However, the 70 percent people would still make up only 8.9 percent of total American retail sales.
The number of online shoppers are growing and that has had a positive impact on retail e-commerce. However, that’s not eating into in-store sales. Even though, 67 percent of Americans shopped online at least once in 2014, a whopping 90 percent of the total retail sales in America in 2014 still happened in physical stores. On an average, an American consumer spent $10 of his $11 retail budget in brick-and-mortar stores.
Why are Brick-and-Mortar Stores Still Relevant?
Online stores may have made shopping convenient. But shopping is not just about convenience; there’s also something called experience, which, at the moment, only a physical store can offer. As per a consumer survey, 78 percent of buyers chose to shop in-store, spending six times more in brick-and-mortar stores than online. The primary reason why the odds are so heavily in favor of brick-and-mortar stores because these stores let consumers touch and feel products.
Holding an item in hand, getting a feel of the fabric, and discerning the cloth’s intricacies are things not possible online. The survey revealed 73 percent of buyers want to touch or put on the clothing item prior to purchasing it. 85 percent of the respondents were keen on testing apparel, beauty and health, and furniture items in-store. As far as electronic items were concerned, 76 percent of the buyers preferred in-store testing.
Online shopping is convenient in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its drawbacks. For instance, the delivery charges and time spent waiting for the product to arrive is not to most buyers’ liking. 65 percent of buyers preferred shopping in a physical store to not put up with delivery charges. 60 percent of them said in-store shopping gives them a sense of instant ownership as they can have the product in hand as soon as they pay for it. Moreover, 58 percent of the respondents admitted brick-and-mortar shopping is easier as far as locating a particular item is concerned.
Statistics say consumers spent more time in a physical store than at an online store in a month, on an average: 54 minutes (physical stores), and 38 minutes (online stores). 40 percent of buyers made at least one in-store purchase a week; 27 percent in case of online shopping. And this explains why consumers spent, on an average, $1710 per month in-store and $247 online. Moreover, conversion rates are four times higher in a physical store (20 percent) than e-retail store (4.8 percent).
In What Ways are Physical Stores Better than Online Retail Websites?
As aforementioned, it’s the experience that makes shopping at a physical store much more worthwhile than online shopping. This experience comprises several components such as customer service, trust, store ambiance, and easy return policies.
Apple is constantly being accused of overpricing its products. But it still manages to increase its revenues and profits with every financial year. This is because all the aforementioned reasons constituting “experience” are offered to an Apple consumer. At an online store, people are almost on their own. In a physical store, there are professional, knowledgeable employees who guide buyers whenever they feel lost and/or confused.
With online shopping, there is also the uncertainty over guarantees and warranties. There have been several instances in the past where customers have been denied in-warranty service because they bought the item online. This issue primarily concerns electronics bought online. This uncertainty breaks the trust there is between the consumer and e-store. With a physical store and its solid purchase receipt, claiming warranty is never an issue.
Returning defective goods is also easy when the product is bought offline. You have an access point (the physical store) when something goes wrong with your purchased item. With online stores, you have to go through the hassle of shipping the product back to the seller or wait for someone from the seller’s side to come and pick your item, which could take days.
And finally, a physical store gives you the real sense of shopping. The store ambiance and environment invoke your senses in a way online stores can only dream of.
All of this results in customer loyalty, or the buyer coming back to the retail store over and over again for future shopping needs.
Bringing Together Physical and Digital Stores
Online stores are not bad. They should be, in fact, positioned in a way so that they complement a physical store and not replace it. In other words, the key lies in bringing together the bests of two worlds to offer a unique shopping experience. For example, brick-and-mortar stores can create mobile apps, which can make locating the store easy when a potential customer is looking for options in the area. The app should also offer details such as the clothing range, prices, working hours, etc. The physical store can have interactive mirrors, making it much more convenient for customers to try out different clothes and accessories.
Statistics indicate 55 percent of buyers like it when they get to interact with both the digital and physical world when shopping. Being able to pick up an item ordered online from a physical store results in more shopping, at least for 23 percent of shoppers. Also, 20 percent of buyers are likely to buy at a physical store if they can return a product bought online at the particular store.
Online shopping is here to stay, but brick-and-mortar stores are not going anywhere as they are integral to any shopping experience. However, it’s important the two worlds come together and offer a personalized and convenient shopping experience.