Clothes. Shoes. Groceries. Books. Movies. Music. Almost everything that we need is now available online. We can buy merchandise and experiences without ever stepping out of our homes. This convenience was non-existent just ten years ago. eCommerce has not only made online shopping a habit, it has become our default way of shopping.
All the concerns that made people wary of online shopping – lax security, privacy issues, fake products, shipping delays – have started to go away. In fact, eCommerce has now turned all these concerns of the past into competitive advantages.
Here are some ways how eCommerce turned the table of fortune for online retailers.
If there is one reason why customers feel attracted to online shopping, it is because of free shipping. Free shipping is perhaps the biggest motivator that drives online shopping more than offline shopping.
In fact, a product priced at $20 with free shipping will sell more than a product priced at $18 with $1 shipping cost. Be it Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart or any retail giant, everybody in the eCommerce space has been able to rake up sales volumes only because of free shipping.
Shopping in the past meant having a shopping list. From groceries to consumables, customers had to list down everything they needed to keep their household running smoothly. Today, online shopping along with its product suggestions has made shopping swift and also less painful. It has eliminated the need to remember or maintain a shopping list.
In fact, there are conveniences like Amazon Dash with which you can place quick orders for replenishments when your consumables or groceries get over.
Artificial Intelligence as a technology enables retailers to bring the right product suggestions at the right price in front of the right audience. They also empower retailers to create highly-targeted and personalized offers that drive more sales. The highlight is that this mode of selling through personalization is not restricted to the holiday season alone. It happens throughout the year.
There are two distinct ways AI is helping retailers as well as customers
“Hey, the detergent you bought last month must have gotten over by now. Want to place a quick order?”
Imagine how easy it would be if someone reminds customers to make recurring purchases. Well, AI enables retailers to send such personalized suggestions to customers that trigger more recurring purchases.
According to a study by 2018 Nielsen Connected Commerce report, 61% of online purchases happen in the fashion industry. From a customer perspective, be it shopping online or offline, the biggest challenge in fashion shopping is finding the right pair of clothes. Finding the right mix of clothes that ‘complete the look’ is definitely time-consuming.
AI can help sift through product imagery and suggest visually similar products to customers. Be it a matching pair of trousers or sneakers, users can get the perfect complete look without having to search the online store for hours. This again adds to the convenience of online shopping.
So, given all these benefits, are brick-and-mortar stores becoming obsolete?
No. Not yet. The world as a whole hasn’t yet reached that point where anything and everything is virtual. As human beings, we still crave physical experiences. Especially in shopping where the simple touching and feeling of a product before buying it makes the whole effort of shopping worthwhile.
Also, eCommerce cannot be a replacement for the in-store shopping experience. In fact, eCommerce is utilizing brick-and-mortar as part of the multi-channel strategy to drive more revenue.
According to TimeTrade’s ‘The State of Retail 2017 report’, 70% of people plan to shop in stores in 2017 as much as they did last year.
In summary, brick-and-mortar stores are not going to be obsolete. Instead, they will evolve in nature to cater to the needs of the new generation of shoppers who want the best of both worlds. This new generation of customers want the convenience of online shopping and also the experience of in-store shopping.
As a matter of fact, this has created a new shopping practice called ‘Showrooming’ — the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price.
Brick-and-mortar stores can use this practice of customers to their benefit. They can create a unique in-store experience where customers have the facility to trial and inspect products before they buy them online. Similarly, brick-and-mortar stores can also be equipped to handle BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) orders.
Online shopping is thriving. During the 2019 Black Friday season, 57% of traffic and 35% of purchases came from smartphones (Adobe Analytics). On the other hand, at least 8,600 American malls shut stores in 2017 (Business Insider).
On the flip side, a new business model that marries both the convenience of online and offline shopping is taking shape. The Amazon Go convenience stores are a good example of this. It provides the facility of checking goods in-store and purchasing them online along with free shipping.
That is how the future of retail is going to be. It will be driven by online selling with offline stores as facilitators.
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