The merging of traditional and online retailing continues to tighten as shoppers utilize all consumer-facing touchpoints to buy the goods they need, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual State of Retail Online survey completed by Forrester.
“This report shows more than ever that retail is retail regardless of where a sale is made or how the product is delivered,” said Mark Mathews, vp/research development and industry analysis, NRF. “Products ordered online are increasingly picked up in-store or shipped from a nearby store, and digital technology being used at bricks-and-mortar locations lets retailers help customers find what they want or make the sale even if the product is out of stock. Traditional retailers have seen the opportunities of online selling for years now, and those selling online increasingly see that stores are part of the key to success.”
Of the companies surveyed this year, 32% were “pureplay” online retailers while 57% were multichannel retailers, including traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers that also sell online.
This year’s data reveals that 43% of store-based retailers surveyed expect a net increase in the number of brick-and-mortar stores they operate by the end of 2018 compared with 2017, with only 16% expecting a net reduction. Retailers are proactively working on their real estate assets, whether testing new store formats such as opening some type of pop-up store (24%) and opening new warehouses or distribution centers (12%).
New physical locations are also important, since 42% of retailers surveyed said that faster delivery of online orders is their top customer-facing priority, and many plan to use stores to achieve that goal. Omnichannel services such as buy online, pick up in-store are an in-store priority for 21%, along with 15% that cite ship-from-store as a fulfillment priority.
”More brands plan to open stores versus close them this year, which proves that the physical retail store is not doomed as many think it is,” said Sucharita Kodali, vp/principal analyst with Forrester. “Smart retailers understand that the two go hand-in-hand, but customer-obsessed retailers will continue investing in areas like omnichannel to provide customers with the seamless on and offline experiences they expect and now require. This year’s survey proved that while they have work to do in 2018, retailers are moving in the right direction.”
Digital continues to contribute significantly to retail overall, both directly and as it influences sales in stores. Seventy percent of retailers surveyed noted that online conversion rates— the number of people browsing an item online who actually follow through and make a purchase online— increased in the past year.
While online sales coming from desktop computers currently double those of mobile browsers, mobile sales are growing 36% per year versus 8% on desktop. Mobile app sales are growing at an annual rate of 16%, and accordingly, 89% of retailers plan to increase investments in mobile initiatives.