Although it may surprise you, there is an open ‘war’ of retailers vs. online stores. The scope, the higher initial investment, the immediacy of delivery or the lack of trust are some of the pros and cons of online shopping and offline. Many consider that ecommerce has surpassed traditional sales channels, but to what extent is this true?
Before going deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of online retailers, it is worth clarifying that both forms of commerce are not irreconcilable. Disney, Bank of America or Nike are examples of brands that use an omnicanal sales strategy, that is, they offer their customers a unified experience through all available channels, both inside and outside the digital world.
However, undertaking both channels simultaneously is not within reach of all budgets, so it is worth reviewing the pros and cons of ecommerces versus physical stores:
Best shopping experience, pro retailers
Despite their many competitive advantages, online stores are still unable to offer a complete shopping experience. Consumers cannot touch, feel, smell or even taste products in the digital sphere, which has led to phenomena such as showrooming. It is not surprising, then, that brands invest millions in free samples and other commercial strategies, which would be unfeasible in online environments.
High initial investment against retailers
But having a large stock on display has a dark side. One of the biggest pros and cons of retail stores is the initial investment required by these sales channels. The costs of the local, staff or electricity supply are skyrocketing in traditional stores, while ecommerce requires a minimal investment in comparison.
Comfort, pro ecommerce
During the early years of the Internet, Amazon and other popular ecommerces emphasized the convenience of acquiring any product “at the reach of a click”. Today this well-known advantage is rarely mentioned. But it is a fact that shopping online is much more convenient than travelling to the physical store, sometimes on rainy days or in heavy traffic.
Shipping times, versus ecommerce
On the other hand, ecommerce cannot compete with the immediacy of retailers, who deliver their products in the same hands of the customer. Online stores must invest more in carriers, which sometimes take days and weeks to deliver a product, although sometimes it is a matter of hours (see Amazon Now).
On the other hand, distance is also a problem when processing returns. It is estimated that up to 20% of online purchases and sales in certain sectors end in returns. While retailers can do this without waiting, ecommerces have a much harder time. Of course, one of those pros and cons of online shopping that we should consider.
Immediatez, pro retailers
From the previous disadvantage of ecommerce derives one of the great strengths of retailers: immediacy in all senses: queries, returns, product modifications, etc..
Higher expenses in infrastructure, against retailers
But a retailer’s investment in people is not small, nor is it easy to give them the training they need to resolve customers’ concerns and meet their needs. On the other hand, some online stores even automate the resolution of queries with the use of intelligent chatbots.
Scope, pro ecommerce
The reach of any retailer is very limited compared to an online store, which in addition to being open 24 hours a day and processing sales 365 days a year, can meet the demand of both local and international consumers.
Impersonal treatment, against ecommerce
Despite the heavy investment made by retailers in staff, this expenditure is more than justified, as most customers continue to distrust the impersonal treatment of ecommerce.
Increased confidence, pro-retailers
Trust also confronts these forms of trade. Even with top-notch online customer service, nothing can compete with the close, humane treatment of a flesh and blood clerk. Of course, another one of the most evident conflicts in the ‘war’ of the retailers Vs. online stores.
Difficulty to expand your target customer, against retailers
For online stores in certain sectors, exploiting a different market in another country is as simple as translating manuals, including the subdirectory ‘/it/’ or ‘/de/’ in your domain and performing other minor formalities, as your business is mainly developed in the digital sphere. For a retailer, on the other hand, it means investing in a new commercial establishment, hiring staff who are fluent in the local language and assuming many other expenses.
Despite the above, various retail and online store statistics have shown that online and offline channels can complement each other perfectly. The future of commerce lies in omnicanal sales!
Image credit : Cr. Cruz