Physical retail outlets and e-commerce operations are starting to converge and consumers are starting to treat all channels as shopping, which it essentially is. Although high streets are suffering, e-commerce is becoming a force to be reckoned with, but e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail are not mutually exclusive.
Google reckons that retail channels are converging, as traditional retailers are starting to make inroads in e-commerce. Physical shops are undergoing a transformation, they are becoming more focused on brand building than actual retail and they are becoming catalysts for related e-commerce services.
In a recent whitepaper Google VP of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy concluded that consumers no longer see a distinction between online and offline shopping. The experience is becoming seamless and intertwined.
“Whether it’s searching on a laptop, browsing main street shops, or hanging out at the mall — it’s all shopping,” he wrote.
Since shoppers seem to be growing blind to the distinction between e-commerce and traditional shopping, they might end up with similar expectations for customer service regardless of the channel, reports Practicalecommerce.com. In other words, they might expect the same level of service online as they do in actual stores. Salespersons keep physical retail going by offering consumer advice and more information than sterile e-commerce sites, while the online channel is unbeatable for comparing prices and saving money.
“Today’s shoppers have become accustomed to doing their own research to get the maximum value out of every dollar they spend, and to feel secure about the purchases they’re making;” Ramaswamy wrote. “With this power shift comes a great opportunity for retailers; those that use tools and insights from the web have the opportunity to close the gap between the smart online consumer and the offline retailer, and stand out in a competitive marketplace.”
Searching for products and comparing prices online is easy, provided one knows what to look for, and this is where salespersons need to be involved, with expert advice. Getting a better deal on a product doesn’t really matter if that particular product does not meet the customers actual needs and properly informing and advising consumers online is just as important as having as competent salesperson in a brick-and-mortar shop.