Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Local Store Advantage In An Online World

Offline retailers have been struggling with the move by many consumers to doing their shopping online. The move online is continuing so rather than lick their wounds these supposed retailing dinosaurs are finding that they may actually have an advantage or two to exploit over the pure online play.
Many online retailers will put their hand on their belly, lean back and give their best “Oh, that’s rich!” accompanied by the look of derisive sarcasm at the mere thought that a physical store can be an integral part of the increasingly online world. If a recent article from the New York Times is to be believed that is a mistake of youthful arrogance that may come back to haunt them. With new attitudes and approaches even the practice of ‘showrooming’, where shoppers look at items in a store then buy them online from elsewhere, can be combatted.
Now some big retailers are taking a new approach to the dreaded showrooming by transforming their stores into extensions of their own online operations. Walmart, Macy’s, Best Buy, Sears, the Container Store and other retailers are stepping up efforts to add Web return centers, pickup locations, free shipping outlets, payment booths and even drive-through customer service centers for online sales to their brick-and-mortar buildings.
Even with high end retailers the online and offline mixture is starting to work with stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s integrating their online and offline inventory to further enable the online shopper to get what the want, when they want it and without some of the hassles of delivery, including the high cost of delivering larger items.
To be sure, it’s not as if online retailers should be shaking in their boots. There are still many advantages to their model over that of those who have the cost associated with physical store locations. These advantages, however, can quickly look less enticing as offline retailers stop sitting back and taking a beating regarding their disadvantages but rather learn to adapt to the online world in a decidedly offline way.
So each camp has things to consider. Offline retailers can continue to adapt by implementing more integrated online and offline efforts. Meanwhile,online retailers (well, at least the smart ones) will become a little less arrogant about their advantages and
see where those dinosaurs may sill have some life left in them and how they will respond.

What’s your take on this? Is the pure play online retailer actually exposed in some ways or will the march toward physical stores becoming extinct roll on unhindered?
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