Seeing is believing and that seems to be the case for many shoppers when it comes to purchasing goods online. People want to physically see and handle products before buying them. And for many shoppers, the best place to do product research before purchasing online is to visit the nearest brick and mortar location. And the same is true the other way around. Forrester Research conducted a study and discovered for every $1 spent online, consumers are influenced to spend $6 offline.
What does all of this mean? Brick and mortar shopping is far from over. Outdoor retailer REI reported that “75% of it’s in-store shoppers have visited the retailer’s website in the seven days prior to a store visit.” E-commerce may be soaking up market share everywhere but it’s also fueling brick and mortar retail sales. “Eighty-five percent of purchasing happens in a brick and mortar environment,” said Steve Goldberg, president of the Grayson Company, in a recent NPR story.
Macy’s is closing 100 stores across the US, which has led some to believe the internet is the catalyst. “Online and offline stores have this kind of chemical interaction,” Goldberg said. “When you close a physical store, online sales in the same geographic area suffer.”
When a brick and mortar location closes it has an effect on online sales in that area. This is a startling bit of information, especially if you’re Amazon. People need stores, at the very least, to do their window shopping and research.
One of the main reasons behind store closures is that affluent people who once lived by malls and shopping centers have moved away. And in their place, people with less buying power have moved in, resulting in fewer purchases and eventual closures. Aged and empty malls are starting to become a thing of fascination in the US, but not for shoppers—for urban explorers.
As older malls close, new, high-end shopping centers are emerging. These new high-end stores give shoppers an experience they can’t get on Amazon or anywhere else online: a nice dinner, a movie, a playground for their kids and a place to socialize.
In China, there is a shift in mall design from retail-focused spaces to lifestyle- and entertainment-focused spaces. In a recent Forbes article, Allan Zeman—Chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group—stated that “online shopping has become a very big problem for most traditional shopping malls.” Online shopping destinations like Alibaba in China and Amazon in the US have made malls less of a retail destination and more of a social destination.
Amazon itself—you know the online retail giant that changed how people get books—has opened multiple brick and mortar locations and it doesn’t plan on stopping. The Amazon Books stores appear to only be available in up-scale shopping centers. So this leaves us asking, “What’s next?”
Many retail experts believe Amazon is using its new bookstores to sell the “Amazon ecosystem,” instead of books. Unlike a traditional bookstore, people will be window shopping and be researching the product of Amazon; and the company has much more than Prime two-day shipping to offer to consumers. In the new San Diego Amazon Books location, you can find books, Kindle tablets, Fire TVs and The Echo. Forrester thinks this is only a test by the retail giant.
Nobody really knows what the future of retail is going to look like but it’s clear that online and brick and mortar retail outlets will need to rely on each other to stay relevant. As popular, convenient and comprehensive as Amazon is, there are still things it just can’t provide to the masses, and that’s social connections—not yet at least.