The store, as in traditional brick-and-mortar retailing , is alive and well. Even though it is hidden by too many figures about digital commerce that are often badly written or poorly interpreted. And worse still, they get everyone fired up over an “apocalypse” that never happened, or rather one that is limited to a few retailers from over the pond who have failed to grasp the importance of change.
To find our way in this situation we need to understand the real dimensions of the two components of retail and how they influence each other.
IHL Services, a major American research firm, estimates that 75% of retail business will still be driven by physical stores in 2022, even though 55% of U.S. households have Amazon Prime accounts. Another big player in the research industry, eMarketer, goes even further by saying that brick-and-mortar retail will account for 82% of global distribution in 2021.
American retail is an indicator of future trends throughout the West. Big name retailers have been compelled to react to Amazon’s leadership with major restructuring. In this context, the successes of Walmart, Kroger and Target mark out an extremely clear and effective “line of resistance”.
According to IHL, there are various reasons why shoppers still prefer to visit physical stores. The top reasons to emerge from a major survey are:
- Need their purchase now (23%)
- Want to touch and feel the product (20%)
- Don’t want to pay a delivery fee (14%)
- Want to support local businesses (12%)
- Convenience (11%)
“Buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) has proved to be the service that meets all these desires. It gives shoppers a reason to come in store (and maybe even make another purchase), and can provide incentives that are feasible only for those with a large physical presence. When managed properly, a BOPIS service can be the first step in a longer relationship with the customer. Recently the more evolved retailers have produced extensive advertising to publicise its advantages as well as the delivery options within their omnichannel approach.
To this end, a BOPIS service must be supported by an accurate inventory system. RFID technology can maximise efficacy by improving the reliability of forecasting tools and drastically reducing the risk of overstocks and out-of-stocks.
Out-of-stocks in particular can be the worst of all evils because the immediacy of a physical purchase is one of the main reasons for visiting a store. If customers think they are better off ordering a product from Amazon and waiting two days in the certainty that it will arrive, that is almost definitely the end of the relationship.
Reversely though a well-oiled BOPIS programme can entice e-commerce shoppers back into the store and highlight the advantages of brick-and-mortar retail. The benefits of the new relationship with the shopper can be backed up by strategically designed incentives.