Will Online Sales Ever Overtake Offline?
Online shopping might be convenient, but in America 80% of purchases still happen in physical stores. You certainly don’t need to worry about your favorite stores disappearing any time soon. However, online retailers are having to up their game when providing a good customer experience, and being competitive with prices. Is there a chance for online sales to ever have the lion share of the market?
Retail is still about bricks and mortar
Of course Amazon is sitting right up there in the top ten retailers, however the rest of them, including Walmart, Walgreens and Costco are all bricks and mortar offline stores. No wonder that Amazon has started to make investments into physical retail businesses, like Whole Foods, which they recently bought for $14 billion.
The fact is that if you go into a shop, you are more likely to purchase an item, than if you simply visited a website. For the customer, shopping is an experience, not just a necessity. It’s about the sights and the smells in the store. You can pick up the products that you are considering buying, check them for quality, and have the human interaction with sales staff and other customers. It can be a social occasion too – it’s something you do with friends and family, and then grab a bite of lunch. You certainly can’t do that with online shopping at the moment.
How can online retailers compete?
Having quick delivery times is one way that online retailers can lure in customers, and in order to compete, next-day-delivery is almost a necessity. After all you don’t want to order a garden parasol, but have to wait 2 weeks for it – by which time the weather has changed and you don’t don’t need it anymore. It has been predicted however that it won’t be long before a 2 hour drone delivery time can be a reality. The other obvious way that online retailers can compete is by offering discounted goods and vouchers. Making the prices competitive means that the customer is drawn to the website.
The experience of online shopping
The future of online retail will need to replicate the shopping experience that people have in bricks and mortar stores. The customer wants to use sleek website with AI that tailors the items shown to them – they don’t want to have to filter through irrelevant products when all they want to see are black boots in a size 9. When buying clothes, the use of avatars to virtually try items should be common place – that way you are more likely to purchase items that suit your body shape. The customer wants helpful, but not obtrusive, virtual customer service assistants. The experience of online shopping needs to be more than just buying a product out of necessity – it should be pleasant and fulfilling.
As things currently stand, online sales may never overtake offline sales in America. However as AI technology and delivery methods improve, online retailers can certainly capture more of the market.