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Future of Retail: Online vs. Offline

When it comes to the retail industry, more and more people are talking about the phenomenon of e-commerce, nonetheless, the traditional retail industry (brick and mortar) is doing just fine, as well. In fact, online presence is mandatory for any serious retail business and there are some tech trends that affect both of these worlds. Progress leaves no stone unturned, which is why both online and offline worlds are bound to get changed once and for all. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s what changes await these two similar industries.

M-commerce drives sales

The first thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that although mobile conversion rates are still lower than those on PC (or even tablet), the sheer number of mobile users more than makes up for this. Therefore, m-commerce drives sales like nothing before. Now, before you assume that this is strictly related to the online retail, you need to hear the other side of the story. Namely, there’s a shocking statistic that about 78 percent of local mobile searches end up being offline purchases. In other words, the customers are using the advantage of being able to compare your prices to those of your competitors before making a purchase. Either that or they’re just checking the address of the store before paying you a visit in person.

Greater online presence

The next thing, which should be fairly obvious, is the fact that it’s much more important for an offline retail business to have an online presence than it is for an e-commerce business to have a brick-and-mortar store. This is why a lot of retail places are heavily investing in a website and an e-store. Moreover, this is an efficient notification system. Sure, you can send your customers emails that a limited-time offer or a discount is taking place in your store, yet, having this displayed on your website may give them a method to discover this on their own. This simple action is (in a way) dangerously close to the concept of inbound marketing. In other words, we’re bound to see more and more retail businesses in the digital world, regardless of whether they’re brick and mortar or e-commerce.

Reliability and legitimacy

The greatest advantage of a traditional retail store lies in the fact that people trust them more, for obvious reasons. Here, you can just walk into the store, purchase an item (or items) you need and go home with them. With an online business, there’s always a possibility that the website is a scam, that the delivery will be late or that the item won’t be what you’ve ordered.

However, in a traditional retail business, unless you’re a major local brand and therefore already have a sterling reputation, the state of your store might impact the bottom line by quite a bit. First of all, your curb appeal will determine how many bypassers enter the store. Second, the interior of the place will not only increase your sales but also affect the way in which people shop. The efficiency of the route inside the store and the phenomenon of impulse buying are concepts that you need to capitalize on. This is why more and more traditional retailers show interest in retail business architecture and hire agencies specialized in this field.

Drop shipping

The concept of drop shipping is probably where online businesses have the greatest advantage over their offline counterparts. Sure, this method offers you somewhat lower profits, yet, the infrastructure and logistical background for this business are both incredibly simple and inexpensive. In fact, this kind of business (depending on the niche) can be launched with as little as $2,000 and $5,000. Needless to say, it’s impossible to imagine being able to do the same in offline retail.

As you can see, while these two concepts may seem like they’re on the other end of the spectrum, there are some quite staggering similarities that can’t be neglected and shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, it’s still a retail industry and the profitability depends on the ability of the entrepreneur to sell a product by using any mean they have available. Sometimes, we’re talking about making their website more mobile-friendly and at other times, we’re talking about them rearranging the interior of their store. Either way, the goal remains the same.

Bio: Cooper Klein is an entrepreneur with a degree in marketing based in Sydney. He’s a regular contributor to Futurpreneur, RetailNext, and other online magazines. When he’s not working, he’s reading sci-fi books and playing with his kiddos.