There’s quite a lot to consider when speaking of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail, and it’s important to weigh both sides of the gamut. Oftentimes, both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses are often heaved in the same catalog of retail. After all, for the recipients – that is the shoppers – it’s nothing but “shopping.” But conceptually, there’s a vast difference between their business models, the way they operate, and their extent of sustainability in today’s time and age.
In simple words, a brick-and-mortar store is a systematic physical shop where customers can walk in and purchase the products or avail the services. All the shopping malls, departmental stores, and other street-side shops form a part of this category. Conversely, as the name suggests, e-commerce stores are online stores on the internet from where customers can seek services or buy the products. All the shopping portals fall into this category. But whilst evaluating the perks of both of these business models, it can be noticed that a brick-and-mortar store gives the convenience of location, which, in itself, acts as a medium of marketing. A good location and appeal have the power of attracting customers to come to the store and shop and contribute towards the footfall. And in the case of online stores, a significant amount of investment needs to be dedicated solely towards creating a user-friendly site, coupled with a well-planned e-commerce and content strategy.
But the matter of debate right now is – what’s the future of brick-and-mortar? Is e-commerce on the verge of killing brick-and-mortar stores?
Maybe not! However, if there’s one thing certain, it is the fact that technology is constantly progressing and humans, in general, are giving preference to a ‘don’t text-only call’ approach, for it involves less interaction and more execution. The truth be said, it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to recapitulate physical retail’s malaise –and evidently, retailers skipped the mega digital forest for the real trees. For brick-and-mortar stores, this could mean a call of a potential threat – which is likely to get worse – should it not opt for the omnichannel route.
Striking a balance: Digitize or Disappear
As it appears, digital retailing is swiftly blurring the lines of purchase channels – where customers are offered a seamless shopping experience, irrespective of where they are. Going theoretically, omni-channel enables stores to engage with customers through various mediums – social media, websites, physical stores, mobile, and more. If e-commerce has cast a shadow over brick-and-mortar retailers, omni-channel can be a ray of hope. However, finding success in omni-channel requires retailers to create exceptional experiences for shoppers, incorporating the use of intelligent customer identification techniques to turn those moments into personal experiences.And what better than striking a differentiation with experiences that induce shoppers to contemplate beyond their devices!
For physical retailers, who aim to sustain and win in today’s hypercompetitive shopping environment, establishing more in-store human experiences and uniquely shaping relationships with customers is crucial and quintessential. Other than this, with the adoption of tablets and smartphones – led by the overly-digitized millennial consumer –retailers must consider ways to leverage mobile technology in order to meet the purpose of driving traffic to the brick-and-mortar locations.
Embracing change for victory
The continued lunge of e-commerce into the brick-and-mortar category marks a gripping time for retailers since technology is and will continue to drive conventional shopping experiences into new areas. However, while the brick-and-mortar store shall always remain a part of the customer’s repertory – it needs to be refurbished to avert the decline witnessed in other industries – who spurned rather than embraced the digital revolution.
The change can make its way when the offline retail lay their focus on delivering experienced-based shopping by integrating virtual reality and augmented reality, and not simply the multiplication of physical stores, each in a beautified version than the other. What seems significant at this hour is how these brick-and-mortar stores will enable the new-age customers to walk in and source their preferred products by means of a virtual inventory without having to hunt deeply, physically!
Embracing this transition, ultimately, shifting the approach from reactive to proactive in terms of adoption of digital innovations will facilitate the development and introduction of new kinds of in-store experiences. In fact, the potential new forms of engagement are sure to create buzz, attract traffic, and importantly, dismiss the notion of the old-fashioned and less convenient bricks-and-mortar store. This unification of retail and digital will reinstate the balance of power for physical stores and release a new door of opportunities for those willing to integrate and innovate.
Authored by Shiraz Khan, Founder Director, Spicetree Design Agency (SDA)