“The sooner we drop the ‘e’ out of ‘e-commerce’ the better” – Bob Willett, Retail Veteran.
While the retail climate is continually evolving before us, many are quick to dismiss the importance of traditional bricks-and-mortar retail. The rapid growth of click and collect, mobile retailing and in-store technologies have made it quite possible to envisage the world without physical shopping destinations. With the “death of the high street” concept a thing of the past, it appears that the prominent line that once segregated online and offline retail has now been erased.
Retail channels have finally found harmony on one commerce unit rather than two separate entities. Successful retailers have recognized the multifaceted needs of their consumers and thus, the provision of a seamless process from browsing to purchase and aftercare is essential.
According to analysts, spending via click-and-collect is forecast to rise by 82% over the next five years. Retail research consultancy Verdict found that 32% of customers made an additional purchase in store the last time they used click-and-collect, essentially demonstrating that the physical space is just as important for consumers and retailers.
John Lewis has largely pioneered omnichannel retailing in this way and has found that multichannel consumers spend 3.5 times more than single-channel shoppers. A stalwart of the British high street, John Lewis places great importance on its omnichannel offering, ensuring that the customer receives the same high level of service on each trading platform. Operating in this way encourages brand loyalty among its customers.
While the introduction of online shopping initially posed a threat to the traditional space, physical stores are now just as important.
As a result of increased competition, pureplay are now becoming less common. Online behemoth Amazon, for example, has taken to physical stores in addition to its e-commerce offering. According to TimeTrade research, at the end of 2015 85% of consumers stated that they still prefer to shop in physical stores. If provided with the opportunity, 71% of consumers said they would prefer to shop in an Amazon store.
Similarly, fashion retailer Missguided signed a deal to open its first concession in Nordstrom stores in the US last May and now has a concession in Selfridges, Manchester, with plans to expand its physical presence in the pipeline.
The coexistence of the traditional store and online space helps to inform the customer journey to the final purchase. An example of this is showrooming where consumers browse for items in a store and finalize the purchase online. Clothing retailer N Brown found an increase in sales of 5-6% within a catchment area following the launch of a new store. Retailers have also found that many shoppers partake in reverse showrooming where they find items they like online and go to the store with the intention of trying and buying.
It is clear that the companies dominating the retail environment are very aware of the importance of adopting a faultless flexible structure. Synchronicity between all retail channels is essential for the success of the business and ultimately the happiness of the customer.