We are at that period in history where every individual has better things to do with their time. We’d much rather relax at home, go out with friends or participate in an adventure. At a time when it’s so much easier to order a pizza online, or for that matter everything from pens to shoes, shirts, and sofas, do we absolutely want to leave home and stand in line at a store to make a purchase? We’d much rather shop online and save time.
People have better things to do than browse around a mall or move from store to store. A large majority of us, mainly families with young children and college students, use malls as a hangout place where parking is available in plenty and enjoy having rendezvous’ in the comfort of an air-conditioned venue, rather than shop. And the online offers and discounts are not making it easier for Brick & Mortar stores either.
E-Commerce – The Boom
The e-commerce wave has seen more start-up’s than ever before, forcing even the giants to better their customer experience. Big e-commerce giants like Amazon and its Prime delivery service have spoiled us with the convenience of placing an order online and receiving it at no additional shipping cost two days later. In addition, technology has progressed enough to show us what we would look like in clothes based on chart-based body measurements. Now we can arrange entire rooms in our homes, on-screen.
Most e-commerce majors that also have a B&M model, use these stores as distribution points for products. They might not sell as much, compared to their online business, but they provide customers with a means to try the product and have a user experience before making a purchase.
The Root – Cause
In the traditional Brick & Mortar environment, the healthier margins are required to pay for the space, manpower, utilities etc… At the heart of the current retail challenge is the disconnect between e-commerce and storefront operations. Selling online makes it easier and cheaper because of which companies are selling things at lower margins. This incentivizes shoppers to go there, rather than visit a store. Retailers right now are trying to figure out how to adapt; the ones that have adapted are thriving.
Are declining sales at some of the nation’s leading retailers a sign that B&M stores have run their course? And, what’s a retailer to do if they have a physical store? How can it survive?
Hope – Is there?
It’s going to be critical for retailers to offer their customers more than just a shopping opportunity. The trick to surviving in the new convenience economy is competing on the service experience. B&M stores need to do a good job of providing customers with an experience. Customers should be able to try new products, ask questions of knowledgeable sales associates and learn how best to use them.
Today online shopping is all about choice and convenience. But we believe, at some point in time the crazy and artificial price differential between online and offline will diminish and become redundant in many areas. Let’s be honest, nothing can beat the instant gratification of immediate possession of goods which can be only be satisfied by a B&M store. So long as these attributes are being served by B&M stores with a genuine, friendly smile, they will remain relevant.