The impact of ecommerce retailers on small to mid-size brick and mortar stores is undeniable. Online sales continue to climb and the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that ecommerce made up 9.1 percent of total retail sales in Q3 of 2017, which was up 3.6 percent from the second quarter. Additionally, Statista projects that retail ecommerce sales will eclipse 603.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. Of this, Statista estimates that 121 billion dollars will be generated by ecommerce apparel and accessories purchases alone.
In light of the unparalleled growth in both online shopping and shopping via remote devices such as smartphones, the question for physical retailers is not whether to bring an ecommerce presence to their brick and mortar store offerings, but rather how to do so effectively.
While shipping inventory from a physical storefront may initially seem too overwhelming of a solution to the above conundrum, the proposition is far less labor (and clutter)-intensive than it appears at first glance. In fact, shipping from stores provides retailers who would otherwise be unable to compete with the rapid growth of ecommerce, with an opportunity to excel and exceed the competition from online megastores. To help, consider the following:
The Challenges Faced by Online Sellers
The ability to do independent research on a product or retailer is an increasingly valuable component of the modern customer’s buying journey. Shoppers don’t want to interact with brand representatives until they have done a substantial amount of independent research.
In fact, Shopify recently published findings from CEB Now Gartner which stated that “customers are 57 percent of the way through a traditional purchase prior to proactively reaching out to a supplier’s sales rep.”
In order to facilitate a customer’s independent research in the initial phases of their buying journey, a retailer must have their full catalog of shoppable inventory available online. However, high shipping costs accounted for 54 percent of online shopping cart abandonment in 2017, according to Statista.
Additional reasons for cart abandonment include “no free shipping” (39 percent), “unaware of shipping costs” (24 percent), and “slow shipping” (26 percent). When you factor in shipping as part of your store strategy, make sure these issues are identified upfront in an effort to avoid the challenges they may present later.
Increase Proximity to Customers by Shipping Locally
When a retailer opts to ship from their brick and mortar storefront, they are able to reduce or bypass all of the above reasons for shopping cart abandonment by lowering shipping costs, reducing lag time for order delivery and offering free shipping whenever possible. They can even spend the time making the delivery experience highly personalized, resulting in increased brand loyalty.
Just how does shipping from a physical storefront help retailers achieve these advantages?
By doing online business from a storefront that is closer to customers than a remote warehouse location, a retailer reduces the distance an individual product needs to travel before reaching its intended recipient. As a result, they pay less for shipping and are able to pass those savings along to their customers with free or discounted shipping offers.
Reducing the distance a given product has to travel also enables retailers to drastically decrease shipping times, which means fewer sales are lost due to slow shipping. This is an important advantage, considering that Business Insider reports that 96 percent of customers think “fast shipping” means same or next day delivery.
Boost Margins by Reducing Overhead Costs
In addition to enhancing the ecommerce experience for online customers, shipping from a physical storefront helps retailers to raise their bottom line. Since all inventory is housed in-store, shipping from stores eliminates the need for costly warehouse rental.
Furthermore, since a retailer can set their shipping vicinity within a certain distance from their physical store, there’s less opportunity to be blindsided by unexpected shipping costs – many of which are identified as “surcharges” and explained by Refund Retriever, a parcel auditing company, here.
To further support the benefits of shipping from your physical retail store, Business Insider found that “the results retailers have seen (shipping from store) include higher sales, faster delivery times, easier inventory forecasting, improved margins, and lower costs.”
With the ability to reduce shipping costs, increase speed, and elevate margins, shipping directly from your physical storefront is an empowering alternative to losing profits due to online retailers. For many store owners who want to branch out into ecommerce but aren’t sure they can afford the additional operational expenses, shipping from their physical storefront may be the answer they’ve been seeking.