From Clicks to Bricks
There was a time when shopping only took place one of two ways for most people: you either ordered items out of a catalogue and waited weeks or even months for them to arrive, or you drove to a store and shopped in a brick and mortar building. Today both of those options still exist, of course, but with the explosion of online shopping (and Amazon in particular), consumers have more choices than ever before for their shopping needs.
However, according to this Forbes article, more and more online-only stores will be turning to brick and mortar models over the next few years. It’s worth looking at why retailers are considering this change and what the benefits and drawbacks are to their customers.
Why The Change?
When customers’ shopping habits were almost primarily dictated by brick and mortar stores, it was easy to see why online shopping became a huge success. People no longer had to fight the holiday crowds, inclement weather, or traffic. The idea of shopping while sitting around in your pajamas was appealing on multiple levels. Amazon Prime was a real game changer with guaranteed two-day (and in some cases, one-day) delivery.
But like with all new things, consumers quickly got used to online shopping. As any retailer knows, people can be fickle. They love change and innovation, especially to their benefit, but they can also quickly become bored or nostalgic for the past (vinyl records anyone?).
Brick and mortar stores provide multiple benefits to the consumer. For those companies who also maintain their online presence, brick and mortar stores take nothing away from the person who still prefers virtual shopping or for those who like to switch it up. And there are definitely some distinct advantages to in-person shopping.
No matter how quickly your items arrive with online shopping, it still won’t come close to walking out of a store with your purchases in hand immediately. If there’s something new you’ve been dying to try and it’s in stock at a local store, there’s no wait.
No Shipping Costs
Sure, you’ll pay sales tax in a brick and mortar store, but you’re likely paying tax AND shipping costs with most online retailers. Sometimes the difference between whether a customer orders a product online or not comes down to the extra cost of shipping it.
Try Before You Buy
No matter how many reviews you read, there’s nothing quite like holding an item in your hands or trying it on to determine whether it works for you. Actually seeing products in person and handling them is one of the biggest advantages to shopping in a physical store.
Have questions about a product? Need some help choosing the right item for yourself or someone you know? It’s hard to beat having a real live human being in front of you who can instantly answer questions and provide necessary information about anything in the store. Even in the digital age, good old human interaction can go a long way.
So we know how brick and mortar benefits the consumer. But what about some of the disadvantages?
In many instances, brick and mortar stores have only a fraction of the stock available through their online counterpart. Consumers are also less likely to find size variations when it comes to clothing, sports equipment, shoes, etc.
It may also be more difficult to find high-demand items in a store before they sell out. More limited space means more limited stock, which means you’re competing with everyone else who wants the same item.
One of the biggest benefits to shopping online is that you can do it any day or night at any time. Decide you just have to have that jacket you’ve had your eye on at 2 a.m. on a weekday? No problem. With a brick and mortar store, you’re limited to their regular hours of operation, not to mention sometimes limited holiday hours.
As mentioned before, if you want to purchase something in the middle of the day in your pajamas, online shopping allows you this luxury. However, if you go to the store you have to contend with crowds, traffic, and weather conditions. Not to mention if you’re feeling under the weather but desperately need to buy a birthday gift for a loved one, the challenge of facing the world can feel insurmountable!
The Bottom Line
There are likely always going to be brick and mortar stores, and there’s every indication that online retailers are here to stay. Both offer distinct advantages to the consumer, which is in large part why once online-only companies are reshaping their business models to include both. Ultimately, consumers can only benefit from having a variety of shopping options from their favorite retailers. Will the trend of going from clicks to bricks last? It’s difficult to immediately gauge the success of this trend, but time will certainly tell as more and more companies jump on board.