Online vs Bricks & Mortar

Power Retail’s Campbell Phillips analyses a report on online shopping, highlighting the growth rate (albeit off a low base). Phillips rightly focuses on the challenge to bricks-and-mortar retailers from their pureplay retail competitors, and more importantly, that only two of Australia’s top fifteen online retailers also has a bricks-and-mortar component, compared to the US, where thirteen of the top fifteen have an offline offering.

Why is their such divergance in these numbers? Is it that local retailers have ignored online? Or have the pureplay retailers done such a good job that offline retailers seem to have comparatively failed?

Closer inspection of a wider range of research would no doubt provide better answers, but by intuition and personal experience, I would support both ideas: offline retailers have been slow and poor in executing online strategies in Australia, and pureplay online retailers have taken the best and strongest ideas from the international forefront to build great online offerings. Examples of this are The Iconic’s three hour delivery in Sydney, or SurfStitch’s live chat and free call support. Meanwhile Supre (one of the better online/offline retailers) features an autoplay video with vibrant music on it’s homepage – sure to deter those who would shop at their desks.

How can local bricks-and-mortar retailers deliver better online experiences? Simply by doing the same as their pureplay counterparts: observe the market (there is no easier marketplace to do market research than the internet!), use the best ideas, allow your online team to be focused but integrated with all the offline activity, and provide them with adequate resources to compete.

As Phillips concludes: “the future is omni-channel, there’s simply no fighting it”. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next twelve to eighteen months.