The internet has changed the business environment and created a truly global commerce sector that can be used by anyone from anywhere. With it, the new breed of entrepreneur is capable of reaching a customer base in nearly any corner of the world.
With so many people empowered through ecommerce, traditional brick-and-mortar establishments seem to be fighting a difficult battle that appears tipped in favor of these new types of businesses. However, a look at online vs. offline statistics tell a much different story where offline commerce still reigns supreme and can actually benefit from using these newer possibilities themselves.
Here is why it is more important than ever to balance your online and offline business strategies.
The Tactile Experience
Though ecommerce has taken a considerable chunk out of the retail market, it still makes up less than 10% of the overall sector. According to the consumers surveyed, the number one reason for not shopping online is because of the inability to touch or feel the product. Another top reason given was that consumers feared the products online would not be the same as they were depicted.
These are factors that online sales channels simply can’t overcome and are key advantages to why brick and mortar still matters in our highly connected, digitalized world. Though many shoppers enjoy the convenience of online shopping, they prefer to make more substantial and bigger purchases in person to ensure quality and ease of warranty or returns if an issue should arise.
Online Boosts Offline Sales
4 out of 5 consumers turn to their smartphones to research purchases and compare pricing. In fact, of the top reasons given in favor of shopping online, the convenience of being able to shop any time of day, the ability to compare prices, and the abundance of sales, were given by just over 40% of respondents.
However, though consumers utilize the internet to compare prices and research products, the majority of sales are still done in person. It stands to reason that, for maximum effectiveness, a business should look to convert online traffic and enquiries by encouraging the customers who browse online to come and “check out the product” in person. This is because customers who price check online will usually go to an offline store to make a purchase, especially to see and feel the product in person and take it home immediately upon purchase. Even if your store has the item available online, your potential customer may still be inclined to find an offline store to complete their purchase. If you don’t have a way of keeping your customers buying with your store online, you could potentially lose the sale without an offline place for them to buy. This particular approach can not only deliver better conversion, but will likely ensure that a customer is made aware that a brick and mortar outlet of the business exists and is an option.
This particular approach of having both an offline and online channel is one of the main reasons that many successful online businesses are beginning to consider building brick and mortar sales points of their own. A great example of this particular strategy is Walmart, a retail giant that makes it possible for customers to reserve products online and then pick them up after getting the tactile experience in their conventional offline stores.
For retailers that primarily operate in the offline commerce sector, a good point to note is that 39% of shoppers read reviews on products online prior to buying and thus can greatly benefit from implementing a strategy that uses reviews to build credibility online while driving sales to their physical stores.
Balance is Key
Though the ecommerce sector is only one tenth the size of the offline sector, it is growing three times faster. Therefore, the best, well-rounded strategy for either form of commerce is one that balances the online research demand and traffic with driving the customers to purchase the way they are most comfortable with, which is usually offline.
The days of ecommerce being inconsequential are over, and likewise, brick and mortar will always have its place due to the benefits of in-person shopping. So, the best strategy is to use an omni-channel that gives you the best of both worlds in the modern marketplace.