People are eager to return to "normal" in 2022. Originally, the e-commerce sector predicted that consumers would not want to revert to shopping in-store. Yet, in light of the continuing pandemic, consumers appear to be returning to in-person shopping. The surge in the COVID-19 Omicron variant did not prevent consumers from shopping in stores during the 2021 holiday season. Consumers came out to shopping malls and stores to spend money at brick-and-mortar. As restrictions and mask mandates continue to lift across the country, more and more people are heading back, and retail businesses are welcoming them with open arms. The Wall Street Journal reported that “As the cost of acquiring customers online has skyrocketed, stores also are a less expensive way to attract new shoppers.”
Last year, the e-commerce giant Amazon invested in physical retail stores. Between their book stores, their convenience stores, and their general retail stores with Amazon products, they have 97 locations. Adam W. Ifshin, a board member of the International Council of Shopping Centers states that studies done have Amazon to be on track to become a massive player in the brick-and-mortar business, with as many as 3,600 physical stores. Though this is exciting news for all shoppers, the repercussions of the pandemic still aren’t over. According to Forbes, brick-and-mortar sales grew at an annualized 3% rate since 2016 but rose over 6.5% in the past 12 months. The growth back to brick-and-mortar is slow, with the big-guns of in-store shopping, malls, are turning to fulfillment centers, gyms, movie theaters, and other shops that offer different forms of entertainment. But one thing is clear: consumers are yearning for a connection between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar.
NEEDING GOODS NOW
It’s no surprise that consumers want instant gratification. Their needs range from wanting free two-day shipping to being attracted to curbside pickup from their favorite retailers. Even before the pandemic, consumers expected brands to meet their every need. Salesforce released a study in 2019 stating, By 2020, 45% of consumers say they will switch brands if a company doesn’t actively anticipate their needs. E-commerce businesses of all sizes can accommodate their customers' needs for fast deliveries by offering overnight shipping. This allows online sellers to build trust with customers who may not be able to visit your company at a brick-and-mortar location and helps satiate the instant gratification need consumers get in-store. Many of DesktopShipper’s carrier partners, like FedEx and UPS, offer overnight and 2-day shipping options, which can be set up through our shipping solution software.
EXPERIENCE MERCH BEFORE PURCHASING
After large chains closed more than 6.573 stores in the last year, other companies such as TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General are opening up more stores. “Executives say customers like to shop in stores to see products before they buy them and get help from a human sales associate rather than a chatbot,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Unlike stores in the past, companies are looking to do pop-up shops or seasonal shops. Companies are also looking into smaller boutiques with little inventory and the ability to buy e-commerce directly from the store while also being able to touch products and get help from a sales associate. The use of virtual reality can provide a bridge to online shopping for people who prefer brick-and-mortar shops. Virtual and augmented reality will likely become more and more prevalent within the online shopping experience in the near future as consumers will commonly want to experience merchandise before purchasing it. Shopify, an integrated partner of DesktopShipper, has already taken steps to make an augmented reality for all merchants a possibility.
THE ABILITY FOR QUICK AND FREE RETURNS
According to a customer survey by PowerReviews, 79% of consumers say they strongly consider free returns before making a purchase when shopping online. Companies, while they want to offer both free shipping and returns, know that’s not always economically friendly. The quick and streamlined process of returning items in person also needs to be considered. Traditionally, the customer just has to slide their purchase across the counter, and within minutes and a few scans from the cashier, the money has been refunded. E-commerce companies can combat consumer brick-and-mortar wants and cut back on in-person returns by simplifying the returns process for their customers with auto-generated shipping return labels. This can be done within DesktopShipper. To save both time and money for the customer, DesktopShipper allows you to print domestic return labels (for select carriers) at the time of outbound shipment generation for free. You pay for the label only when it is returned. Taking a few steps out of the return process relieves some of the customer stress of online returns and leaves the door open for future purchases from that customer.
While there has been much discussion in the industry about whether e-commerce will supplant brick and mortar altogether, it is proving that the relationship between retail and online is connecting consumers. Most e-commerce based companies are not shifting into brick-and-mortar and experts still believe that e-commerce will be the main place consumers shop over the years. With that said, The Wall Street Journal reports, “As the cost of acquiring customers online has skyrocketed, stores also are a less expensive way to attract new shoppers.”
At the end of the day, consumers want to be able to trust the products they are buying in-store but with the convenience of online shopping. You should evaluate the facts before making that choice to dive further into online sales or make an investment into a brick-and-mortar location for your e-commerce business. It’s important to gauge not only what the consumer wants but what is more cost-effective for your business to be successful.