When online retail came to rise, it seemed inevitable that e-commerce would eventually replace physical stores. The ease of online shopping, plus the low prices afforded by eliminating stores and reducing overhead, figured an insurmountable advantage against ancient physical businesses.
But consumer behaviors haven’t followed along. Instead, as the world of e-commerce developed and matured, the unique benefits of brick-and-mortar shopping gradually came into focus. It’s clear now that e-commerce has evolved into a retail force. But physical stores haven’t aren’t exactly barrelling toward extinction, either.
Instead of a fight to the death, online and physical shopping have found a happy medium: co-existence through technology. While the particular pieces of tech used to enhance each experience can vary, each is using innovative tools to enhance its own experience for customers.
In brick-and-mortar shops, that technology just took a little longer to arrive.
“Shopping is now digitally influenced at every point along the shopping journey,” said Deloitte executive Rod Sides at the NRF conference, according to Computer World. “Over the last year, an increasing number of transactions are online, but that’s not the whole story. Today, consumers are using their mobile device all the way through as a shopping aid.”
Breaking Down Shopping Silos
Increasingly, retailers are looking to build a shopping experience that crosses channel borders. Mobile technology, including checkout kiosks, mobile point of sale tools, and assisted selling platforms built on tablet devices, are combining to blend the physical and digital experience. In-store shoppers are finding that brick-and-mortar experiences have more and more in common with e-commerce.
Paul Gainer, an EVP for Disney Retail, told an audience at NRF that his company has combined physical and e-commerce retail into one division, a move that highlights the broken barriers between each retail channel.
“Our guests expect a seamless experience,” Gainer said. “Two-thirds of those who’ve made a brick-and-mortar purchases have been online.”
In other words, consumers aren’t discriminating between online and in-store — they’re using both, and for different reasons. But the consumer path-to-purchase can cross between each retail destination with such frequency that neither has claimed dominance over the other. In some ways, a brief gravitation toward e-commerce highlighted its limitations — and showed how physical stores are a remedy to these shortcomings.
For physical and e-commerce retail, a symbiotic relationship has developed. After years of building out online retail stores, brands are understanding the value of a robust in-store experience.
Mad Mobile is the leading provider of mobile-first solutions for the world's top companies and retailers.
Looking for a technology partner who can deliver amazing mobile solutions across multiple mobile interfaces?