Shoppers Still Prefer Brick-and-Mortar – Here’s How Online Retailers Can Compete

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For years, small brick-and-mortar retailers have been stressing out about competition from online retailers. But now a new survey suggests that physical retail locations may actually have an advantage, and it’s the ecommerce businesses that need to step up.

Despite the growing popularity of online shopping, 90 percent of retail sales still take place in physical stores, according to an AT Kearney report. The study polled consumers of all ages at all stages of the buying process—discovery, trial, purchase, delivery/pickup and return—and the results revealed that shoppers at almost every age would rather visit a brick-and-mortar location than shop online.

However, all is not lost for online retailers. Here are some tactics that can help your ecommerce business compete effectively:

  1. STEP UP YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE

    Consumers in the survey perceive in-store service as better than online customer service, so make sure your customer service can compete. Ensure that site visitors can quickly find FAQs, phone numbers or online chat tools to answer questions. Pay special attention to returns—customers have fears about returning products in the mail, so explain your return policy in detail and provide free return shipping labels.

  2. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

    Zappos.com is a great example of how images can be used to create the next best thing to an in-store experience. Make sure your product shots are clear, and that the items can be viewed from multiple angles and different colors. You might even consider adding video footage of your products.

  3. OFFER OPTIONS

    Keep your website choices from being overwhelming by using “Filter” tools so that users can narrow choices down from, say, 4,327 lamps to 37 lamps. Filters such as size, material, color, cost and customer rating are all useful in ensuring customers don’t get frustrated and leave.

  4. SHARE THE RATINGS

    Customer ratings are invaluable in helping you make the sale. Provide the option for customers to review products. You can either allow them to write their own reviews or simplify things by providing yes/no or multiple-choice options such as “Runs large/runs true to size/runs small” or “Would you recommend to a friend? Y/N.”

  5. LOOK TO THE FUTURE

    The future of retail belongs neither to brick-and-mortar nor online retailers, but to a hybrid. Customers want to order products online, but pick them up in store, or visit a store to touch merchandise, but order it online. If you want to test the waters of brick-and-mortar, but don’t want to invest in a full-scale store, consider less costly options such as a seasonal cart or kiosk, or a temporary “popup” location.

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