If you're a business owner, you might struggle to decide between traditional brick-and-mortar and e-commerce marketplaces. Which will lead to better profits? Which will lead to failure? The answer isn't clear-cut.
According to Harvard Business Review’s study on consumer shopping habits, 73% of participants use both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce during their shopping journey.
The Benefits of an Online Experience
Any consumer will admit that online shopping is very convenient
Why bother going to your local shopping mall when you could spend a few minutes browsing your favorite-brand retailer for a lifetime's supply of the things you need. Plus, they will deliver it right to your doorstep.
E-commerce enables your business to reach more customers. Instead of catching the eyes of passersby with an enticing storefront display and sign, a well-placed online ad can reach the screens of thousands of users locally and beyond.
Customers won’t always find what they’re looking for on the shelves of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, or they might find perusing the aisles to be a waste of time. In addition, you may not be able to stock your full range of merchandise in every physical location. E-commerce enables you to bring the full range of choices typically found only in a flagship stop to every shopper.
With a few clicks, an online store provides customers a complete view of what a brand offers, including what’s in stock, the bestsellers, related items and current promotions.
The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of nearly every retail business. A study by McKinsey and Company found that e-commerce year-over-year growth in 2020 was two to five times faster than before the pandemic. Retail stores closed down, people stayed at home, and e-commerce increased rapidly.
The Covid boom is not slowing down. Roughly three-quarters of people using digital channels for the first time during the pandemic said they will continue using them when things return to “normal,” according to McKinsey. In addition, Shopify's most recent trend roadmap expects the e-commerce market to grow by almost $11 trillion between 2021 and 2025, with global sales expected to reach $6 trillion by 2024.
The Pandemic Was Supposed to Push All Shopping Online. It Didn’t.
Even as pandemic restrictions end, and many people continue working and watching movies at home, stores are mounting a comeback. It turns out there are limits to buying goods from a screen. Society has a long history of going into a store to buy something. That need is more resilient than the temporary need to buy things online during a pandemic.
According to Raydiant's second-annual State of Consumer Behavior Report, 46% of respondents preferred in-store shopping over online, with 33% citing the ability to touch and interact with the product.
In-store Shopping is not Dead
Brick-and-mortar stores create an experience that a phone, tablet or computer screen can't provide. With in-person shopping, customers can test a product in real-time, bring it home, and exchange it for a different product or return it for a refund the next day if they aren’t 100% satisfied. Customers don't want to wait to try out a product, even if waiting means a same-day delivery with Amazon Prime.
A physical storefront can potentially give your customer a more powerful experience and engage their imagination. Online ads can provide dopamine spikes, but these feelings are fleeting and lack the human engagement that comes with asking questions about a product. Interactions in the outside world carry more weight in the human brain due to the confluence of multiple sensory inputs.
In addition, face-to-face interaction holds immense value. A landing page, app UI, or FAQ page cannot recreate the impact of a well-trained sales associate. This in-person advantage can make a difference for a skeptical customer.
Data suggests consumers are finding a new balance between online and in-person shopping. In the second quarter of 2020, as stay-at-home measures were in place, the share of U.S. retail sales that happened online surged more than four percentage points to 15.7%, according to Census Bureau data adjusted for seasonal factors. By the fourth quarter of 2021, that share had dropped to 12.9%, putting consumer buying habits roughly back to their pre-pandemic trend.
March 2022 was the first month since the pandemic hit during which e-commerce sales declined from the same period a year earlier while in-store sales rose, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks transactions made over the Mastercard payments network as well as survey-based estimates for spending with cash and checks. The drop in online spending was 3.3%, the first year-over-year decline since November 2013. The rise for bricks-and-mortar stores was 11.2%.
Stronger Together: E-Commerce and Brick-and-Mortar
Businesses should be using both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, two channels that provide unique benefits to the customer.
Two channels are better than one
Successful companies are omnichannel, which means combining the magic of in-store experiences, and the convenience and availability of online shopping as well as direct delivery.
Shopify's survey found a mutual relationship between the two channels: 54% of participants said they're likely to look at a product online and buy in-store, while 53% are likely to look at a product in-store and buy online.
It's an even split. Both channels can operate as a showroom. Both channels provide value for retail consumers. And using both allows businesses to meet customers at every touchpoint of the buying process.
Brick-and-mortar businesses cannot simply rely on word of mouth or walk-in traffic. Combining brick and mortar with a digital strategy enables retailers to promote inventory to customers anytime, anywhere.
Conversely, an online-only strategy excludes the benefits of traditional brick and mortar retail: the power of immediacy, same-day purchase and returns, tactile engagement, and community-building events.
Ultimately, the integration of an on-line and in-store strategy will create a stronger customer experience and will likely increase customer loyalty.
A prevalent omnichannel strategy many businesses are using today is buy-online-pick-up-in-store.
Enabling customers to buy online and pick up merchandise in the store is a strategy that bridges the gap between traditional brick and mortar and e-commerce channels. This provides the convenience of in-home shopping with the immediate availability of products at a nearby store, typically on the same day. This also enables a customer to satisfy the tactile experience they desire. Whether it is to just see and feel the size, quality or functionality of an appliance, or to try-on clothing for fit and appearance. They then can make a decision, while they are still at the store, to keep, exchange or return the product, and avoid the inconvenience and possible cost of shipping the item.
Get the Perfect Omnichannel Experience With Mapbox
Our intuitive and flexible location platform includes dedicated solutions for omnichannel businesses. Our technology helps you get customers to stores as well as optimize their online experience.
Tracking global movement
Mapbox Movement data provides in-depth insights on where and when people are moving most. Get a quick understanding of high-traffic locations, where you should place your store, and which existing stores are driving the most or least traffic.
Finding the nearest store
Our Isochrone API offers a birds-eye view of your network radius. Enter your parameters, and you’ll know which areas are reachable within a specified time, whether by foot, bike, or car. Make sure your customers know where to find you with an easy and engaging store locator.
Finding the perfect locations and making them findeable ensures your customers can easily pick up from your store on the same day.
Faster checkouts for your customers
For online shopping, checkout must be fast and direct. A poor checkout process loses customers and hurts brand reputation. With Mapbox Address Autofill customers can enter their addresses quickly and accurately into a single search box. Checkouts are faster, and there’s less room for missed deliveries caused by address typos.
Add Location Context to Receipts
Bank statement transaction descriptions are often difficult to understand. With the addition of in-receipt maps, customers can quickly recognize where a transaction occurred or easily spot fraudulent purchases, decreasing payment disputes.
Omnichannel is the Best of Both Worlds
As an omnichannel business, you can guide customers toward what they want online, give a good first impression, and provide them with an in-store experience that will keep them coming back. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores can do better by leveraging the online world. On the other hand, e-commerce platforms can’t ignore the benefits of providing a seamless experience between in-person and online shopping.
Get started with Mapbox Retail today.