Brick and Mortar Stores: Can they Compete with E-retailers?

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Brick and mortar retail stores are experiencing a significant decline in market share, largely due to e-commerce providing consumers with greater access to global markets.

The impact that the e-commerce revolution has had on physical shopping centres and stores is so significant, commentators are now referring to its growth as the ‘great retail apocalypse’ with some large retail giants and well-known corporations currently facing liquidation and bankruptcy.

Hundreds of stores have shut down across towns and cities world-wide. Empty stores are now a common sight on many a main street, forcing community groups and local administrators to seek new ideas and innovative ways to bring vibrancy back into their town centres.

While this might indeed sound a little apocalyptic, the phenomenon is not new. Retail history shows that the growth of large retail chains and the establishment of sizeable shopping malls were largely responsible for the demise of Ma and Pa stores and cottage industries.

Likewise, competition from fast fashion and brand outlet stores hit department store bottom lines before e-commerce. Now Amazon is shaking up the online space with their easy returns’ policy, efficient online inventory management and no risk purchasing.

Doom and Gloom?

Yes, more people are buying online, simply because they can. E-commerce provides shoppers with flexibility and convenience, especially for those people in regional areas that simply don’t have physical access to large retail chains.

E-commerce does provide shopping convenience but not all consumers are necessary going online with the intention of making a purchase online. Many use the accessibility that technology provides to compare shopping across all platforms.

Online inventory management systems allow consumers to find the cheapest price and to see if the items are currently in stock, before travelling to the store to make a purchase.

Invest in Technology

Digital natives are also changing the way we shop and consume, embracing mobile technology for expedience of shopping instore and online. Brick-and-mortar shops can cater to these technology savvy consumers by providing self-checkout, smartphone compatibility or mobile self-checkout apps as an easy way to pay instore.

While it’s true retail chains are closing shops because more people are shopping online, this doesn’t necessarily equate to lost sales, just a shift in where their own customers are choosing to shop. Common in the grocery sector is that customers are choosing to shop online and collect in-store.

Ensure you have the adequate stock available by investing in a good online inventory management tool to track sales, monitor high turn-over items and identify slow moving products.

The Advantages of Brick

Brick-and-mortar stores have one primary competitive advantage over e-commerce rivals because they provide real life personal interactions. This includes auditory, sensory, social and tactile experiences to shoppers. And, let’s not underestimate the allure of instant gratification.

People generally like people and they like to visit stores. Millennials for example, value social connections, unique experiences when shopping in-store and being rewarded for their loyalty. Traditional retailers can increase the appeal of physical stores through store layout, displays, product demonstrations, fittings and tastings.

As a brick-and-mortar establishment you are in a better position to build strong customer relationships and to offer a variety of unique designs and flavours that are locally produced and manufactured.

Winning Customer Service

Customer experience can be either positive or negative regardless of whether you trade in the e-commerce space or from a brick-and-mortar store. Customer satisfaction and service is a leading indicator that consumers will return. If you consistently meet, or better still, exceed customer expectations then they are more likely to be repeat customers.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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