Can Retail Benefit From Online Sales Growth?

Posted by Dipika Barmat on May 21, 2019 12:54 PM EDT
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It seems to be established logic that brick and mortar operations are on their way into the dustbin of history, with budding ecommerce platforms and impressive online sales operations continuously establishing themselves as the de facto way of doing business in the 21st century. Despite the rise of modern peculiarities like digital shopping and the gig economy, however, traditional ways of doing business and thriving in a brick and mortar environment still exist and aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Can retail actually benefit from online sales growth, and if so why are so many predicting the permanent doom of brick and mortar stores? Here's how retailers are trying to leverage online sales growth into a sustained future for their brick and mortar operations.

Walmart is the leading example

There's no finer example of how retailers are reacting to the digital age by evolving and benefiting from online sales growth than Walmart, which admittedly had a huge advantage over others in the form of its immense market share and the plentiful availability of funding. It allowed it to dominate small towns, such as Hamilton, and, consequently, real estate Hamilton went up. One of the world's leading companies and brands, Walmart managed to endure digital disruption despite the fact that many doomsday predictions for the company centered on Amazon and other budding ecommerce giants that posed a serious threat to its model.

As Walmart demonstrated, retail can't sit idly by as online sales dwarf their share of the marketplace, but rather must be proactive in fighting for its sustained future. Retailers should learn from Walmart's astonishing ecommerce growth, which saw digital sales spike upwards through 2017 after the company invested serious time and money into digitizing its operations. The company poured everything it had into embracing the digital revolution with gusto rather than trying to run from it out of fear, and as a result it's still standing against the likes of competitors such as Amazon while countless other small fish have died off.

One of the reasons that Walmart and other retailers can benefit from online sales growth is that digital sales aren't exclusively made with delivery in mind. Customers love to shop on their computers and smartphones, but that doesn't mean they've abandoned the age-old tradition of heading into a store yourself to pick out items or receive your order. Retailers are being put to the test when it comes to online pickup operations, as those companies which don't offer users a way to order products online and then drive to a store where their items are waiting for them are likely to suffer in the near-future.

Some things never change

Retail will be able to benefit from online sales growth because some things never change, and certain customers will always demand an in-store visit when picking up their purchase. This is because some customers buy expensive items that they want to see and feel with their own hands before having it shipped to their house, as many people are familiar with negative online shopping experiences that resulted in them getting scammed. While traditional facets of the marketplace will always be here, however, some new ways of doing business may also be embraced by retailers trying to stay tech savvy and modern enough to lure in young customers.

The process of renting items that were traditionally sold, for instance, is becoming a digital trend that retailers are likely to embrace. Ambitious startups are springing up across the world offering clothing rentals, for instance, so that young people can rent a lovely dress or pair of dress shoes rather than buying them outright. Online renting of clothing could become a staple of retail outfits in the future, which could easily allow customers to rent something online before driving to a store to pick it up rather than waiting to have it delivered.

Online renting, a fragmented workforce, and changing ways of reaching out directly to customers are all changing the way that brick and mortar stores survive and thrive in a competitive marketplace. Despite the predictions that retail is at the end of its days, companies like Walmart are proving that online sales growth can be leveraged into a sustained retail presence. Don't count retailers out just yet because of the digital revolution - the world of retail is going to keep benefiting from online sales growth for years to come.

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