Is the era of the physical retail store really coming to an end? – words Alexa Wang
Millions of individuals from all walks of life access the Internet every day in order to purchase goods, to make financial transactions and to keep in contact with their friends.
Since the first smartphone emerged, this trend has become steadily more pronounced. Some consumers now spend more time browsing the web than they devote to speaking with family members.
One trip to a local restaurant during dinner hours will prove this point. Although not quite Orwellian (yet) in terms of what the future might hold, we have to wonder whether we will witness a point when the physical retail store is no longer an attractive option. Let’s look at some interesting trends in order to appreciate where we may be headed.
Arguments Against Physical Retail Centres
It can be argued that the beginning of the end for retail stores was witnessed as far back as the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Shopping malls and massive outlets began closing their doors as a result of cutbacks combined with the birth of the online sales environment. Many feel that the industry was dealt a crippling blow immediately following the financial crash of 2008. Consumers needed to tighten their financial belts and as a result, many began to look towards money-saving portals such as Amazon and eBay. Even when the crisis eased, these habits had already taken shape. But there are still physical store advantages. Retail stores understandably adapted; many offering the same products and services via online portals in order to retain their client base. However, does this really signify that the days of physical retail are in their twilight?
The Challenges Facing Online Businesses
Contrary to the belief of some analysts, the fact of the matter is that brick-and-mortar locations will always appeal to their customers. The physical nature of purchasing products is firmly rooted with the human psyche. This makes a great deal of sense, as such transactions have been taking place since the dawn of mankind. The big question is therefore how much leverage the online community will exert in the coming years. There are several hurdles which need to be overcome.
One of the most profound challenges involves the ability of small businesses to adopt effective and efficient B2B ecommerce solutions. While B2C practices are just as important, being able to connect with suppliers and distributors is critical in terms of delivering the final product. The good news is that platforms such as Shopify have taken the guesswork out of the equation. No previous experience is required when implementing such software packages and they can now be easily integrated into daily operations. In fact, these plans have been specifically engineered to support the physical retail environment.
Ultimately, we are not witnessing a slow death of the retail world. We are instead watching a gradual transition intended to cope with the digital age. This does not signify that shops will close and local markets will suddenly cease to exist by any means. On the contrary, consumers will now be able to enjoy more options than ever before.