E-commerce + Brick & Mortar: 1+1 = 3 - Jacopo D’Alessandris

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

During the past two years, online shopping has benefitted the world greatly. It allowed us to buy products safely when going to the store was considered a health risk. Even before the pandemic, we heard rumors that in-person retail was dying. One would think that the pandemic would exacerbate that prediction, but studies are showing that this is not the case. Brands are working diligently to provide their in-person customers with an experience they cannot replicate online.

Wunderman Thompson’s ‘The Future Shopper Report 2021’, survey concluded that, “ 64% of global consumers prefer to shop with brands that offer both online and in-store services, and less than half of all shoppers worry about shopping in-store as pandemic restrictions are lifted.”

Retailers are strategizing on how to leverage their brick-and-mortar stores to give customers greater connections with their brand. LEGO, a company traditionally sold online or in partnering stores, is doing just this.

“The new wave of storefronts will cater to ‘shoppers [who] seek more personalized and interactive retail offerings,’ LEGO stated in their press release. The brand believes that ‘brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a critical role in strengthening consumers’ connections with a brand and in helping people to discover new products,’ and plans to open 120 new stores across 50 countries in 2021.”

Not only LEGO is trying to increase their brick-and-mortar presence, but so is Amazon, a company based off the premise of being solely online. The Economist reported that, “The growth rate of sales on Amazon’s platforms, including third parties, had slowed before the crisis, from nearly 30% a year to below 20%. The trend reasserts itself as people return to shops. In the past quarter Amazon’s own online sales grew by only 16%, short of investors’ (muted) expectations.

“In future customers will want ‘omnichannel’ retail that combines online and physical shopping, says Mark Shmulik of Bernstein, a broker. As for Amazon’s move into department stores, he has one question: ‘What took them so long?’ The firm’s motive is also defensive. Walmart has made omnichannel work well during the pandemic by melding its formidable physical network with its website and offering a same-day ‘click-and-collect” service.’”

It seems as though Amazon’s fear of the competition has pushed them to the idea of brick-and-mortar stores. But will they be able to succeed this way? Others are pushing their in-person retail to provide customers with better experiences and relations with the brand, while Amazon’s motives seem to be more defensive.

“Brands are offering more than in-person shopping; they’re engaging with customers and forging interactive relationships at their flagships. IRL retail is betting that consumers will embrace the ability to connect with brands through exposure to products and familiarity through brand experiences.”

In a post pandemic world, shoppers are looking for a more immersive experience than what they can get online only and I think that brands who are able to provide this along with a user-friendly online experience will succeed sustainably.

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