Competition pushes businesses to strive to innovate and for change to emerge. The latest battle in retail markets is the battle over who will dominate in the war waged between bricks and mortar stores versus ecommerce websites. In some cases, companies are playing on both sides of this conflict, harboring physical storefronts while maintaining websites and apps for attracting traffic from both the physical and digital sides of the playing field. It is too early at present to determine who will come out to be the undisputed victor, so it is no wonder why businesses are forced into hedging their bets in both directions at the present time. Here are three points of competition both sides of this conflict must take into consideration.
Despite the fact that bricks and mortar stores still maintain around 85-percent of the consumer base as their customers, the fact is that every year these retail outlets are losing ground to online retail companies. The one thing that is fortunate for physical retail stores is that people still prefer the convenience of being able to immediately purchase a product. They even like using technology to engage in the process of omnichannel retail shopping which integrates multiple channels of telemetry into a single integrated experience for the user.
Until now, online retailers could not compete so easily, because it simply took time to mail items to consumers. However, in recent times this barrier is potentially becoming a thing of the past—especially with the advent of drone-based delivery services. This has many wondering why they should drive to the store if a company can deliver products to their door in less than a couple of hours: a figure that may dwindle down to less than 30-minutes in some cases. This raises the question of why more bricks and mortar stores are not more heavily advertising direct delivery services to compete with Amazon in this arena. Surely, local retailers can offer curbside delivery and reach customers faster than Amazon can; yet, bricks and mortar stores do not seem to be very competitive in this area of operation. But, it is looking like evolution in the retail landscape will inevitably center around this primary issue of who can get products to consumers more quickly and efficiently.
The User Experience All Over Again
One of the ways bricks and mortar stores are fighting back against online retail efforts comes down to developing an immersive user experience. When an old look and feel no longer strikes the consumer’s fancy, sticking with that old, static user experience, even in a physical store, is simply bad for business. Just as online retail websites change their look and feel, physical stores must make similar changes. In fact, it is time most bricks and mortar stores realized this need to evolve their tactics more intimately. Millennials, for example, are used to automation and frequent digital upgrades that hold their attention and interest for a time and then are suddenly changed to wow them again and again with a brand new user experience each time. If stores do not adopt this ever evolving immersive user experience approach, they will simply fail to compete with online retailers: those companies who have made such tactics the norm with younger consumers who expect to be wowed by something new on a frequent basis to remain interested and engaged.
Something commonly missing from the online user experience is the human element of focusing on the customer. There is a social aspect to consumer loyalty that is often forgotten. Customers like to be treated right by other humans. Humans crave acceptance, but websites and AI processes have no real experience with this aspect of human psychology in the retail market. They cannot easily provide this level of intimate human connectivity and social satisfaction like a run in with excellent customer service, complete with a human smile, can provide. It turns out that for bricks and mortar stores to get the upper hand over ecommerce stores, excellent customer service and impeccable customer treatment by store employees is an absolute must for this segment of the retail market to be able to compete and survive.
While ecommerce is growing by leaps and bounds, this does not mean that bricks and mortar stores are dead in the water. Humans still need places to go and experiences to be had. Without a physical shopping experience to enjoy anymore, the scope of human activity and socialization would be limited to something more like the existence of a shut in. For this reason, the prospect that ecommerce will truly wipe out the bricks and mortar foundation of the retail landscape is not a very likely outcome. Rather, it is more likely that the retail landscape will continue to evolve to settle on a hybrid approach to retail sales that accommodates the consumers physical and digital shopping needs.
by: Mikkie Mills