I don’t know if you have realized it before, but it feels like almost all the malls in Singapore are pretty much the same (in the sense that you can roughly find the same kinds of shops in any mall you go). This means that if I wanna get something, the chances of me being able to get what I want from one of the 3 malls that we have in Tampines is super high.
Take for example, Sephora, or even H&M! I mean, I used to have to travel to town if I wanna shop at H&M. Now I don’t have to.
But to take a step further than that, I don’t even have to step out of the comforts of my room (yes, that’s where I practically spend 99.99% of my time) to buy anything now, because I can just go online to do it.
Even though there may be a shift in consumer preference for online shopping (which has a huge negative impact on traditional brick-and-mortar stores), I feel that it should be more of an integration of the 2, rather than one VERSUS the other.
*cue dramatic music*
Everyone knows what Amazon.com is right? It’s an online store, and it has its very own physical bookstore. Yes, you read that right–an actual, physical, brick-and-mortar shop. You might be wondering, why do they even need to do such a thing when they’re already doing so well with their online store?
Well, for online companies, having a physical presence not only helps improve their marketing efforts and build better customer relations, but it also drives traffic and sales to their online stores. This is especially important when the online environment is an unfair gameplay of strategic ad placements and high SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts that only the bigger players can afford to splurge on. Hence, the physical store also then becomes an alternative channel for a business to create awareness of its online presence.
This also works the same for traditional businesses as e-commerce would literally just be an extension of the ongoing business. It’s pretty intuitive that having an online site would naturally extend a company’s reach to its potential global market, while saving their pockets from the high costs that’s normally involved in building a brick-and-mortar empire.
And the best thing is, by creating an omnichannel experience for customers with the merging of both traditional and e-commerce, a company wouldn’t lose its potential customers in the purchase process (when it’s a normal thing for people to frequently transit between the offline and the online worlds). And this is proven too! A study done on over 46,000 customers actually shows that customers who utilize the omnichannel experience offered by a company spends at least an average of 4% more in-store and 10% more online as compared to single-channel customers (i.e. online-only or store-only customers).
Even though this integration is a great solution on both ends, I feel that the synchronicity between the two might have a drawback…especially when it comes to the make-or-break considering factor for customers.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’m quite a cheapo. The main reason why I would buy anything online (on top of the ultra convenience that it brings) is the price. Why pay for something when I know I can get it cheaper online? And that’s where the problem with the integration of both traditional and e-commerce lies. The price that you get in-store would be pretty much the same as the price offered on their online counterpart (apart from any online discounts that they may choose to throw in to attract customers).
So naturally, when I want to choose the cheaper online alternative to a product that I want to get in-store, I would go to other 3rd party sites instead that sell to me the same thing for a considerably lower price.
To give you real life example, I wanted to buy a lip balm from Burt’s Bees. However, the problem is that it’s only sold in the States, so the only way for me to get it was either from its online store (which was NOT feasible because they don’t ship internationally) or from Sephora. So technically, Sephora becomes the representative brick-and-mortar store for Burt’s Bee in Singapore. BUT, it’s so expensive!!! 😕 If you know how much lip balm I use on a daily basis, spending $10 on a small tube is really pricey.
This is when a 3rd party site comes in useful.
The price difference really is crazy. I can actually buy 2 tubes of Burt’s Bees lip balm online for the same price as 1 of it from Sephora. Moreover, my online purchase even included delivery to my doorstep! Double yays for lazy cheapos like me! 😁
Although this may prove to be a possible threat to the traditional retailers (and perhaps support the shocking stats from the earlier infographic), I think this only goes to show how important it really is for businesses to also include e-commerce in the first place. There will always be users like me who will abuse the system and exploit the brick-and-mortar stores by only browsing their physical products (in order to test and feel the real deal), before buying them online from a different source. However, if a traditional retail business has its own official online site, chances are that customers would actually buy from them instead.
Personally, I feel that when I know a particular online shop has an actual physical store, I get a sense of reassurance that this online shop is a legit business that I can trust its products, because sometimes, it can be hard to trust an online business when I can’t even see the products they are selling to me. The pictures that online businesses use to advertise their products would only remain as pictures to us until we see the real deal. Even though online customer reviews play a part in convincing us, buying things online still carries a lot of risk.
And hence, the reason of building customer relations is one of the reasons why online businesses ultimately still need a physical store in the long run.
- E-commerce destroying Brick and Mortar
- E-commerce will make the shopping mall a retail wasteland
- The future of e-commerce: bricks and mortar
- Traditional Commerce vs eCommerce
- A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works