Elder-Beerman. JCPenney. Sears. Macy’s. Most people have witnessed first-hand the closing of at least one of these stores. These major businesses, among others, are facing the reality of today’s shopping climate — the shift toward e-commerce.
Because of the steady rise in the percentage of retail sales attributed to e-commerce, Credit Suisse, an international bank, predicts that 20%-25% of all U.S. malls will close by 2022.
“How people shop is changing,” Su Yun Bae, professor of retail merchandising, said. “It’s more convenient to shop online because of the variability and the range of products. They have the size, price and color you want.”
Kate Proctor, a junior BGSU student, shops online because of the convenience.
“I like not having to drive all the way to the mall,” she said. “From my house, it’s a good 25 minutes to the nearest one, so it’s just easier to do everything online.”
Proctor is not alone. Of those polled by eMarketer in 2018, 43% cited convenience as their primary reason for shopping online instead of physically going to the store.
Consumers, however, are not ready just yet to abandon physical stores.
“We can’t ignore brick and mortar stores,” Bae said. “(People) want to see what (the product) looks like, they want to feel and touch it and experience the product and store environment.”
In an attempt to appeal to all customers, companies are experimenting with a hybrid. Amazon opened a New York storefront in September last year that sells its most popular items.
According to an article by CNBC, Cameron James, the vice president of Amazon’s physical retail team, the store rotates its inventory on a weekly basis depending on what has become more or less popular online.
Bae said in order to be successful companies need to invest in “omniscient retailing,” or the approach of multiple merchandising mediums.
In other words, Bae said companies should have multiple channels, such as mobile, e-commerce and traditional stores, “seamlessly integrated so that customers feel like it is one store.”
An example of this in Ohio is Columbus-based Homage, founded by CEO Ryan Vesler. It started out selling sport apparel exclusively online but has since opened seven brick-and-mortar stores.
“I think as the nature of brick-and-mortar changes we need to pay attention to the store of the future,” Vesler told Columbus CEO magazine in 2016 when he was selected as CEO of the Year.