Thriving retailers merge e-commerce with in store sales to create stellar shopping experience.
E-commerce vs. Retail. Should retailers view it as a war or competition or treat all customers equally? It's no secret that e-commerce is on the rise. In fact, in the 3rd quarter of 2013 e-commerce increased by 18.2 percent over the same quarter in 2012. That's not to say that brick and mortar retail is dead. Brick and mortar saw a 4.7 percent year over year increase. Neither number is anything to sneeze at. So, what are retailers to do? In my opinion, focus on both.
Naive, procrastinators need to realize that e-commerce is here to stay. Retailers with both brick and mortar stores as well as strong e-commerce systems are thriving. Take Nordstrom for example. Not wanting to fall behind like other big box stores such as JC Penney, Nordstrom invested $150 million in infrastructure improvements. Stores like Nordstrom and Best Buy, for example, allow online orders with in-store pick-up or at least allow you to check in store inventory on items.
It is not just brick and mortar stores that are making changes either. Online retailer Warby Parker announced it would open brick and mortar stores to supplement its online, e-commerce business. The business that are thriving realizes that e-commerce and brick and mortar are not at war with each other, but that they are both essential to a strong business model.
Retailers that are thriving realize that they have many different types of customers in varying age ranges, varying knowledge in technology and also in varying demographics. There are customers who like to walk into a store and try things on in fancy dressing rooms. Then there are others who prefer to try things on in the comfort of their own homes. There are shoppers who are busy with work and family and can't always shop during store hours, so they opt for online shopping when it is convenient for them. Should one of these shoppers be more important than the other? No, they are existing customers or potential customers. The goal of retailers should be to provide the best shopping experience to any potential customer whether they be in a physical store or shopping virtually.
Businesses that cater to both types of shoppers will tend to see greater sales figures because they have the potential to generate sales 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can sell to local shoppers in their neighborhood or a shopper half way around the world. It is estimated that by 2017, 60 percent of US retail sales will involve it the internet in some way.
With statistics like those mentioned above, it is getting increasingly important for retailers to embrace system integration as well as e-commerce. In today's day and age, shoppers want convenience and they want to save time. Potential customers do not want to have to go store to store or make calls to find out if an item is in stock. Customers want the ease of checking stock online in real time. By linking your systems through system integration you can have your e-commerce store automatically link with your brick and mortar inventory management and reorder if necessary or remove an item from stock automatically. Retailers like Nordstrom and many others also offer to order an item not in the store and ship it to your home free of charge via their website. So, e-commerce and brick and mortar are essential to offering your clients the best all around shopping experience.
What kind of shopper are you? Do you browse online and then prefer to purchase in your local store? Do you use the buy online, pick up in-store options? How often do you find yourself looking at a retailer to see if their website can tell you if something is in stock? Have you ever considered using system integration to link your inventory and sales systems? I would love to hear about your recent experiences with online and brick and mortar shopping.