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Over the past few years, e-Commerce has picked up significantly around the world as people are opting to find more convenient and in a lot of cases, cheaper ways to shop. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of e-Commerce was exponential globally (read more about that in our blog “How Covid-19 increased consumerism despite many losing their jobs and streams of income”). The push to go digital has been great for brick and mortar stores. Snap lockdowns, social distancing rules and globally the risk factor of going out for non-essentials (and even essentials) continue to pose a risk for community health. Many stores have therefore opted to open up digital stores. Almost everything these days exists digitally and if your business isn’t shoppable online in these times, you probably aren’t going to be able to sustain it for much longer. Checkers60 were pioneers of online trade in 2019 (read more about that here), but other grocers and even pharmacies are now forced to head in the same direction.

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Why are online stores looking to open up physical stores and why are physical stores opening up online stores – The bid for hybrid shopping is here.

According to Repsly, online retail startups who often pride themselves on being nontraditional are now working to bring back established brick and mortar stores while maintaining their fresh image online and even typically launching new products online first, rather than in-store.

Similarly, Repsly also reports that physical stores have also had to start leveraging the trend of online shopping. For most retailers, their big retailers use their stores as fulfilment centers.

Thus, combining the two and creating a hybrid-like model whereby consumers can shop online, but collect in-store gives major retailers the best of both worlds. The Mr Price Group has done this exact hybrid model of order online, pick up in-store, incentivising store visits through quicker collection and free collection as opposed to longer wait periods and fees associated with delivery.

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This article suggests that the move for online stores to go brick-and-mortar lies within the fact that 85% of consumerism occurs physically. However, this now dated article (2019) does not consider the implications of in-store shopping in relation to COVID-19.

In spite of this, it goes on to explain that online retailers have many reasons for adding an offline presence due to the buying culture that still exists, the experience customers enjoy when visiting a store and the necessity in reaching a wider, but to an extent more targeted clientele.

In some situations, shopping in a store is also quicker (from an instant receipt of goods perspective) and more convenient (from a touch, feel, try and choose perspective) than shopping online. In addition, physical stores serve as local distribution centers for online retailers.

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Conclusion

For any retailer, big or small, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a number of threats to businesses. Many businesses liquidated, but also many started to spring up as people began to look for new ways to earn money. For brick and mortar stores, the cost of maintaining shops open while there were no customers buying in-store was a forceful hand to go digital. Since consumers have now primarily gone towards and are still growingly leaning towards online shopping, it is only sensible for the survival of retailers to exist online and for their product catalogues to also be present online.

Likewise, for online retailers, opening up physical stores gives way for storage capacity and can act as fulfilment centers, but also expand their customer reach for shoppers who typically prefer in-store shopping.

In conclusion, a hybrid of this model may prove to be the most effective.

Depending on the business itself, giving consumers the best of both worlds and catering to all kinds of shoppers is always better.

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