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In-store vs online. Why do some people prefer to shop one way and some prefer to shop another?
We don’t really know, yet – but we do know we haven’t crossed the retail vs online threshold. In 2018, 86% of all sales still happened in brick and mortar stores.
Even if online sales are 20% of shopping in 2019, 80% is still doable.
Why then, are we seeing all these brick and mortar locations, like Macy’s and Sears close in the hundreds? It may have to do with the idea of department stores operating costs being too high.
We’re exploring more about why you should have (or keep) your physical store below.
The Benefits of Physical Stores
When you shop online, you have hundreds of choices. Sometimes even thousands. And for most people, that’s overwhelming.
A minority like having that many choices, but for the rest of us, it feels overwhelming. That’s one of the benefits of a physical store.
If you go to buy, say, cat food – the store will have maybe 20 choices. 20 is a lot – but it’s not 100+. And within that group of 20 choices, you cancel out some of them due to needs.
You’re not going to buy kitten food for a full grown cat, so that leaves you with 13 choices. Then you know you want to buy organic, so that leaves you with eight choices overall.
For the average shopper, eight is a reasonable amount of choices. That means they won’t get overwhelmed, but they won’t feel like there isn’t enough diversity either.
This works for any industry, just insert the kind of product you sell. Then (and more on this later) there’s the option of getting more information from a human about one of those eight products. Choices and the ability to get questions answered in real-time are a plus.
There’s Less Competition
When you sell things online, you literally have global competition. That’s where the idea of SEO came from, and the reason you need to spend money on ads.
You still have to market a brick and mortar store, but there’s less competition (probably) in your local area. You don’t have to compete with Amazon, at least, not for in-person shoppers.
That’s a big deal since small retailers can’t spend as much as bigger stores on SEO strategists and ad campaigns. Online, you’ll almost always be outsold by someone who can spend more.
Some of Google’s strategies attempt to stop this from happening, but only for very niche customers. Most of the time, in an AdWords auction, the one with the biggest budget wins.
Even if you have local competitors, you still have the benefit of people walking or driving by your store. That’s a free form of advertising the internet hasn’t been able to compete with yet.
You’re More Visible
Elaborating on our last point, in person stores are more visible. People don’t browse store sites and types online. They search, pick one, and pay no attention to the others.
At least with a physical location, you get the benefit of people seeing you while they drive or walk by.
Obviously, this depends on your location. We’re seeing places like malls die out because they’re a hassle. Usually, they’re not in the center of town, and parking is hard.
The modern consumer is the epitome of laziness, or to put it nicely, they value convenience. If going to your store means driving 15 minutes away, then they’re likely to shop online or go to a competitor.
That’s partly why spending the money on a good location (for your audience) is so important. Make sure the location you choose is where your customers actually drive by and see.
For example, if you’re an in a college town and you sell to college students, you want to be as close to campus as you can afford to get.
If you set up shop on the other side of town, where the non-students live, you’re not going to benefit from being seen.
People Like to Touch and Feel
Another reason for having a physical location is important? Over and over again, studies have shown that being able to touch, feel and see something in person is why they don’t shop for that thing online.
You only need to see one “online shopping fail” article to see why that’s important. People want to make sure they’re spending their money (and their time choosing what to spend it on) well.
Even pre-paid returns are a hassle. With blue mailboxes disappearing, it means we have to find a post office or UPS store and go out of our way to go there.
If you have to return something in-store, you get the benefit of looking for a better-fit/choice item while you’re there.
If you really want your retail build out to succeed, put some sort of resource in your store. Like a little coffee shop – or something not necessarily related to your store, but that people like.
The Physical Store: Still Going Strong
As long as you have a good marketing strategy for your physical store and your online presence (website) gives good information about it, you should be fine. In-store shopping isn’t disappearing, but it is changing.
Businesses who keep up with and adapt to change have always been the ones who succeed. To make sure you’re one of them, figure out what your customers need and how to reach them.
Always keep trying different solutions and never settle. That’s the key to brick and mortar success.
Want to learn how technology can help you price your items properly? Click here.