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Is Online Or In Store The Future Of Retail?

Now that we are moving back to pre-pandemic ways of interacting with each other, will we move back to in-store shopping? Or will we stick to online shopping from here on out?

The Covid 19 Pandemic’s influence has been great. Great, as in all-encompassing. But also great, as in impressive. Some aspects have been horrendous, but other aspects have changed our lives for the better.

online shopping

Mask wearing saved lives but also saved time and money. Shaving daily and applying full faces of make-up became redundant these past two years.

Proper hand hygiene is imperative. And most of us won’t mind seeing those spray bottles at stores and restaurants for the foreseeable future.

Even standing 1.5 meters apart in queues is one of the best parts of the last 3 years.

But what about pandemic shopping habits?

Real benefits and drawbacks of In-Store versus Online shopping

The differences between online and in-store do not necessarily mean that one is better than the other. Each has its drawbacks and its benefits, depending on the customer and the type of product bought.

Online vs In Store Location

This is pretty self-explanatory. Online stores have no physical presence on the ground, and no stores or outlets where products are sold to customers directly.

Online stores can fall prey to multiple digital issues. These include crashing websites, applications failing and network issues. But they can also benefit from the reduced initial start-up costs, and the ability to be “open” 24/7.

Due to the fact that products purchased will be shipped to consumers, there is no chance of online shopping being “immediate”. Certain fresh grocery delivery apps do have a lighting fast turnaround time. And some online sales agents allow for next day delivery. But if you want a pair of running shoes for a jog right now, better head out to your local shop instead of Googling it

The cost of maintaining a storefront may be high. However, in the long run, physical stores will be able to benefit from the ease with which customers get their products. Physical stores don’t have to deal with warehousing and shipping logistics. Furthermore, the customer is responsible for the transport and insurance of their own purchase from the moment they leave the store.

Payment Options

The rise of mobile payment applications, online banking and direct/immediate payment notifications is blurring the line between the Online and In-Store. However, some facts remain true.

Online stores rarely, if ever, offer cash on delivery options. Don’t even try to mention accepting cheques.

In-store purchases are still your only option if you do not have access to electronic banking, a credit card or a Pay-Pal account.

Marketing and customer service

Both types of stores have merged into the omnichannel world of marketing and communications. Various chat options, call centres, e-mails and social media customer service options are being utilised by both online and in-store sellers.

Online stores find it tricky to create a personalised experience for customers. Where there is no chance of face time, client profiles and efficient communications can bridge this gap.

What is the Future of In-store and Online Shopping?

Each of these shopping options still seems to have its place in our economy. Particularly because many older generation consumers still shy away from online purchases. According to RetailNext only 18% of consumers over the age of 60 have ever made use of online shopping through their mobile phone. The majority of online shoppers fall between the ages of 18 and 29. These numbers decline steadily as the age increases.

It would seem that online shopping is definitely here to stay. However, retailers should take all the relevant factors into account when deciding whether to be exclusively online or in-store.

Not every business model is suited to one or the other exclusively. And maybe that’s where the truth lies. Look at your customer base, your products and the logistics surrounding warehouse and shipping. Don’t be hasty and don’t give up the storefront just yet.