Is online shopping eating into profits of on-ground businesses?

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Seek and ye shall find many!

Like a coin, every story has two sides, but this case has three sides! Today we are trying to unveil all three sides of Retail buying and selling story – Shoppers’, online businesses and on-ground businesses (small businesses as well as large retail chains).
The internet is buzzing with deals that incite, excite and invite customers to order now and receive the item on their wish list in no time. With the advent of smart phones the buzz has shifted onto the phones giving the shoppers real time opportunity to evaluate various offers and make a buying decision. The most affected by the online shopping and deals are the small businesses which do not have much profit margins to roll out deals every week but are capable of offering great customer service experience.
The deals offered by e-commerce stores are no doubt thinning the profits of small businesses. Marketers who closely observe the buyer-seller relation have only one advice to give to the businesses, adapt and incorporate e-commerce model to survive and possibly surge ahead the competition. It has been more than a decade now that businesses offering services, products through online buying process have been vying for customer attention and some of them have indeed succeeded in creating an online customer community who prefer to login, click and buy. Online shopping is liked by people who are technology savvy and want to shop at their own time and in their own comfort zone. Online shoppers are anything but lazy, they scroll through loads of information before making buying decision.
But then there is another school of thought that believes that retail shops are going to stay and will not go obsolete so soon because there are customers who still prefer to walk into a real retail store and buy. They prefer to go to a store because they find it easier to talk to a salesperson if they wish to understand the features of the product they are buying rather than read about it on the computer screen. Also many shoppers find ‘returning goods’ hassle free in a store as compared to shipping back to an online store.
For shoppers, both online and in-shop buying is good because at both the places they can avail offers introduced by the businesses to beat the competition. Wal-Mart Ad match is the proof how walk-in customers can get best prices. The biggest attraction till date of a retail shop is the opportunity it offers to its customers to touch; feel and in some cases taste the product first hand. Now on-ground stores are leveraging their existing brand equity and building their online stores from where a customer can buy same product as they would in-shop.
Five years earlier maybe only 1 % percent of retail stores had online shopping option but now most of the retail stores have upgraded their business models and offer their customers option to buy in-shop or online. Many giant retail chains such as Home Depot, Best Buy have introduced the policy of having certain products/ products models exclusively for online customers. This way they get to keep both in-shop customers and online-customers happy and engaged. This is wise strategy to keep the business plus have customer walk-ins too.
E-commerce has indeed made life easier for the customer, competition tougher for the businesses. It’s a love triangle that will continue to keep marketers all over the world on their toes. At the end of the day buyers have best of both worlds but the jury still out on which medium of shopping is better.