According to Business Insider, there are 300 million users of Amazon.com and 50% of US online shoppers are on the Amazon mobile app. And recently, Walmart and Google joined forces to go after Amazon with voice-activated online shopping using Google Express. Today’s busy lifestyles and the ease of online shopping continue to cause trouble for brick-and-mortar stores, with those numbers not getting back in their favor any time soon. So how can they compete?
28 percent of surveyed shoppers said they preferred buying online. The number one reason people shop online is to save money, other top reasons are that online is easier, faster, has a better selection, and is more informative. However, another 33 percent of respondents thought in-store purchasing was in fact easier because they can physically interact with products, returns are easier, and it’s better to get information from a store associate.
Brick and mortar shops respond to the digital market by combining the internet with their in-store sales to give customers the best of both worlds. They use social media accounts to promote events and interact with customers via email. High-end retailers like computer stores or furniture stores have succumbed to a new trend called showrooming. Showrooming means browsing products inside a store and then buying a cheaper version on your phone while still inside the store. But there is also such thing as reverse showrooming where shoppers do the opposite by researching products online and then going to buy them in-store. Retailers also draw shoppers in with in-store pickup of online orders, free Wi-Fi, digital coupons, and discounts for buying online while in the store. For instance, when Kohls customers order electronically using one of their in-store kiosks, they get free shipping.
Large retailers like Target and Best Buy are responding to the online shopping trend by reinventing the in-store experience. Best Buy debuted a new format where each vendor has its own space inside the store. The spaces have large product displays of products from Apple, Samsung, Sony and more with which customers can physically interact. This format has proven to be a huge success for Best Buy. Target, in comparison, created displays of its home décor products that put them in a showroom-like setting instead of stacking them up on shelves, like seeing a model home. Home décor accounts for over 17% of Target’s sales. This helps customers see what the product looks like when it’s assembled inside their home.
Local businesses use the internet to attract nearby customers through SEO, thanks to Locally.com. Locally is a website that helps mom-and-pop shops list their products online in an easily searchable platform, that way local customers will see it listed on Google first when they do their pre-shopping research and can buy it that same day without waiting for a delivery. Buyers can use Locally to check a store’s inventory, search by brand, and compare prices. More than 4,000 retailers in over 800 cities have signed up on Locally and customers have especially enjoyed it during the holiday season.
As online shopping continues to evolve with innovative ways to bring low-priced products to your doorstep, there will always be a need for the in-store shopping experience and the interaction it allows. Innovation for improving the customer experience on both sides will determine who survives, and who doesn’t.