3 Sep 2020, 09:15 — 6 min read
While eCommerce is growing at a faster rate, for the time being, both offline and online stores are firmly entrenched in the retail landscape. A large proportion of customers shop both offline and online.
However, there is no denying that smartphones and tablets make it easy for shoppers today to purchase goods online. Physical stores are unlikely to go extinct soon, but online shopping has altered the retail ecosystem drastically in the past decade.
For a retailer, which is the better format? Let’s compare the advantages of both.
The main advantage of an online store is its low-cost structure. You do not have to invest in costly retail space or hire store personnel, which reduces operating costs. An online store is much easier to set up compared to a physical store. An online ecosystem like Linker.store, enables you to create an eStore with no investment and hardly any technical expertise to get going. Setting up a brick and mortar store is comparatively more time consuming and expensive as one has to identify, lease/rent/ build and set up the store. Moreover, the overheads in a physical store are higher.
A lean cost structure provides more flexibility if there is a sudden decline in the market, much like we are witnessing today. Several traditional businesses (such as bookstores) have become unprofitable because they cannot compete with their online counterparts’ low-cost structure.
One of the main advantages of having an online business is that you break geographical boundaries. You do not depend on the number of people passing through your street. It is certainly worth broadening your customer base to include people outside of the local area. From the internet, you can sell to the world. The market for an offline business, on the other hand, is usually limited.
A significant advantage of an online store is that it can operate 365 days a year, 24x7, sales can be made at any time, and customers can buy when it suits them.
It’s easier to analyse customers’ buying behaviour online. Demographic data like age, gender, and other search-related behaviour can be easily ascertained with Analytics. This data greatly helps to improve the online store, products and overall customer experience. Tracking this level of data in a physical store is not possible.
A well-designed online store gives the impression of a much larger business for small firms when compared to a physical shop. This goes a long way in establishing trust, credibility, and a loyal customer base.
When social distancing is becoming the norm, online shopping scores big compared to crowded offline stores. An online store allows you to shop from your home’s convenience and avoid large crowds and traffic.
Online stores accept all sorts of payment methods, including credit/debit cards, digital wallets, and some even allow you to pay later. These payment methods are all safe and secure, and convenient.
A significant advantage of an offline store is the opportunity for customers to establish personal connections with your business, building loyalty. As you can speak to your customers, it is also an opportunity to upsell other items.
For many businesses, the offline model is the only viable option. For example, even though a restaurant can advertise online, the actual dining experience is offline. Similarly, a car dealership is not likely to be as effective without its sales staff walking buyers by selecting cars and even offering a test drive option.
In a physical store, you get to touch and examine a variety of choices and buy the one that you like most. For many, getting to feel the product they will be buying is almost essential. It also allows you to inspect the products closely for any well-hidden damages or defects. In the case of clothes, physical stores will enable you to try out clothes for size and fitting, which is a big advantage.
Imagine you just searched the entire store and found two very different, but equally great items and can’t decide which to pick. Or you are looking for a particular item that you need help locating. The in-house sales assistants can tell you about each item and help you make an informed decision.
Unlike an online store, you don't have to wait for days to get the product when you purchase it in an offline store. You choose the product you like, make the payment, and take it home.
If you’re not satisfied with your purchase, you can always go back to the store to get a replacement or refund. No more waiting 3-5 business days for the amount to appear as a credit in your next billing statement.
So, what is the future of retail? Physical stores are not on their way out just yet. With increased internet access and smartphones, online stores are rising at a much faster pace for sure. As of now, both will co-exist, but the ability to adapt and drive future change will be a key factor in the growth and survival of both retail formats.
Image source: shutterstock.com
Posted byGlobalLinker Staff
We are a team of experienced industry professionals committed to sharing our knowledge and skills with small & medium enterprises.
14 Sep 2021, 11:07