Will E-commerce Completely Eliminate the Brick and Mortar Store Model?
The Internet has been around for quite some time now, providing a platform for millions of businesses around the globe to engage in e-commerce. Many specialty items are now easy to find, without needing to waste time or gas heading out to the local retail store. It is as easy as jumping on a popular search engine to find items to do everything from fixing your car to purchasing what you need to organize and make more available space in your laundry room.
It is a process that is so easy, that it begs the question, is much of a future for the average bricks and mortar retail store model. With retail store chains, like Borders and Blockbuster, being totally replaced by online equivalents now controlling the book and video rental market, it leaves consumers to ask which physical retail chain is next to go.
How E-commerce Is Winning the Retail War
One of the amazing things about online e-commerce is not simply that it is making it easy to find items consumers are looking for. It is also easy to find reviews of products that consumers are interested in purchasing, where real people are spilling their guts on the product before the consumer makes a purchase.
In this respect, e-commerce is helping consumers to make smarter buying decisions, a feature missing in the bricks and mortar retail market. The physical store model has always relied on the buy it and see if you like it method of selling products, where the product either sold itself or failed to create repeat purchases. This is bad for both the consumer and the physical retail store, because the consumer is unable to make informed decisions on the spot.
This disconnect causes buyers to be hesitant to buy what they are not sure of, and it creates a drop in sales for the physical retail store. Cheaper methods of online marketing and the idea of only needing to ship a product when it actually sells is a huge savings advantage for companies that do not operate out of a chain of physical locations, when all that suffices is a few warehouse centers and a website to conduct business.
Are There Flaws with the E-commerce Model?
Although the informative product reviews and the easy search and buy process of online e-commerce is helping online stores to gain market share each year, there are perhaps some cracks in the foundation of this business model that may eventually create problems for many online stores down the road. Big items are more costly to ship, meaning either the retailer or the consumer has to pay for shipping. This is sometimes a hard sell, when a consumer can simply bypass the shipping hike by picking the larger ticket items up at their local retail store.
Many consumers want their products now, not in seven to ten business days, if that can be avoided. In addition, online stores often forget that humans are by design, social creatures. Not everyone sits in front of a computer ordering products. Consequently, it would appear that e-commerce will likely never completely eradicate bricks and mortar stores. In fact, it is predicted that 80 percent of retail sales will continue to be carried out in brick and mortar stores for many years to come.
About Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.