According to the US Department of Commerce, online sales increased 15.5% from a year ago, reaching a new record.
This exponential growth of online retail can be attributed to what feels like the frozen-in-time inconveniences of brick and mortar shopping:
- Waiting in line
- Printed receipts
- The inability to do a quick product price comparison
These issues can deter the most motivated shoppers and send them running back to online shopping instead. Brick and mortar shops have the opportunity to remain the beating heart of retail for years to come by diving into new advances in technology to solve long-standing problems for shoppers.
Online commerce is alluring for both the shopper and the retailer, but it is still only a tiny fraction (only 9.1%!) of the total retail market. E-commerce sales are growing, but it will be a slow process overall.
Problem: Endless Lines
From the long wait at the grocery store to the lines around the block for the latest iPhone, checkout lines remain one of the most irritating parts of the shopping experience. Many retailers believed that the self-checkout kiosk would solve this problem by giving the shopper more autonomy, but the technology is frustratingly slow and many find it just as inconvenient.
Imagine the possibility of true cashier-free checkouts. No lines, no kiosk, just a live stream of data and uninterrupted transmission of power to a smart shopping cart to end the dreaded checkout line.
Problem: Price Changes and Product Comparison
Consumers expectations for shopping are evolving based on the habits formed as they browse online—opening up 5 browser tabs with different retailers selling the same product is a standard for a savvy online shopper. Consumers can quickly compare and pick the best price online and are excited by having options.
Traditional retail shops don’t have the flexibility that is inherent to online marketplaces. Price tags are physical and static.
Can you envision a shopping experience where retailers can shift prices based on market demand and consumer expectations? Electronic shelf labels could even provide retailers with dynamic insight into shopper behavior and preferences as it relates to stock.
Adaptability and personalization are major assets for e-commerce and are often missing from brick and mortar retail. Taking a step back, isn’t it odd that the faceless abyss of online shopping feels more personal than a face-to-face experience inside a store? Instead of hiring five times as many employees to act as personal shoppers, retailers can adopt the strategies that are commonplace online.
Offering recommendations and showing products that align with an individual's past purchasing habits would be a major game changer for a storefront. Wouldn’t you want to spend a bit more time inside a store that offered just what you were looking for?
Technology that advances brick and mortar retail
E-commerce is not a foe to brick-and-mortar retail. With the right approach, retailers can adopt new technology that harnesses the lessons learned from e-commerce success and create new shopping experiences that will keep shoppers coming back for more.
From instantly receiving purchases to the tactile experience of examining products before purchasing, storefronts have assets that online shops will never have. By combining the benefits that exist offline with new technologies that bring the online experience to the brick-and-mortar, retailers can gain the loyalty, evangelism, and share of wallet of shoppers.
Read on here about the great future of smart retail!