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Brick and Mortar Isn’t Dead, It Just Needs to Adapt

Customers Still Like to Shop in Person, Even if They Get Only to the Curb - The New York Times

Target said its curbside sales grew more than 700 percent in the last quarter, while Best Buy reported nearly $5 billion in online revenue in the second quarter, a company record, and said 41 percent of that had come from curbside or in-store pickup.

E-commerce is doing fantastic right now, and the reasons for that are obvious. What’s also obvious is that in-person retail isn’t dead, not by a long shot. There are plenty of advantages retail can offer that e-commerce, especially new e-commerce can’t compete with right now.

One edge is speed. Amazon can get you most things in 2 days, a few things the next day, and if you live in the right place, a few others on the same day. But Target and Walmart can get you everything in-store in minutes. On several occasions I have put in an order at my local Target for curbside pickup, gotten in the car, and picked it up all in a 30 minute window. If I wanted to go even faster, I could have just gone into the store and done everything in 15 minutes flat.

Another edge is shipping. Amazon has massive shipping infrastructure, but most smaller businesses do not (although there are initiatives to improve this for small businesses). Retailers with physical locations can leverage their locations to assist with shipping costs and speeds. For example, Target.com orders are fulfilled by either their distribution centers or their 1,500+ stores across the US, whichever is more efficient for each individual order. This helps reduce shipping costs and improves the delay between a customer making an order and receiving the product.

And then there’s the other element that the article mentions: people like to shop. Shopping online is certainly something we all do, but there is something nice about shopping in person. For things like produce, it’s basically essential too (no one is going to be as careful selecting produce than the person who’s going to eat it).

Now obviously these are all temporary advantages, and e-commerce companies can eat away at these advantages, but that just means that retail will have to find new weapons in their batter to stay relevant. As a consumer, that should be good for me as each of these worlds battling to get my money should lead to better products, better prices, and better options for everyone.

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