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Retail Resurgence: Just Don’t Call It a Comeback

There was a time when people thought eCommerce would eventually replace brick-and-mortar retail. Kind of like in old, futuristic movies where someone hits a button and the thing they want appears in their house-pod-place. But that was before the mobile revolution.

Now the term eCommerce should actually be reinterpreted to mean “everywhere” commerce. The same web technology that brought us eCommerce has migrated to a variety of gadgets, from smartphones to tablets, that have since dramatically transformed the way we shop, even in stores.

According to this February 7, 2012 Forrester Research, Inc. blog post, The Brick-And-Mortar Renaissance by Peter Sheldon, “Fixed checkout aisles and cash registers are being replaced by smartphone-wielding store associates who now take the checkout to the customer. Furthermore, the smartphone generation performs self-assisted checkouts directly from their phones while sleek new in-store touch-screens allow them to experience products without opening the box or removing the coat hanger.” That means customers in many retail locations can expect a hybrid shopping experience that couples the convenience and versatility of eCommerce shopping with the hands-on, instant gratification of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store.

In this new world, eCommerce hasn’t replaced brick-and-mortar at all. It’s made it even better.

While stores adopt these new technologies and capabilities to better serve their time-crunched, Internet-savvy customers, still another tsunami approaches the shore: out-of-state, online tax legislation. If local retail is on the cusp of a renaissance now, the elimination of tax exemptions for out-of-state, online retailers will surely push it over the edge.

And if mobile shopping—including researching store locations, product information, reviews and prices, and purchasing on the mobile device—continues to grow at the rate we saw in 2011 (mobile traffic to Shopatron brand stores doubled last year, going from 6.5% of traffic to 12.2%), the difference between shopping online and shopping in store is going to disappear.

Brands that put a barrier between their eCommerce sales channel and their retail distribution channel are going to be scrambling to rebuild and integrate those retail relationships. But what if a retailer was sufficiently integrated with their vendor brands to be able to service a customer by calling up the brand website on their tablet and ordering an out-of-stock item that would be shipped to the store for in-store pickup? Why not? Forward-looking multi-channel merchants are already doing it.

This is great news for brands that practice retail-integrated eCommerce, because they have already integrated their retail partners with their eCommerce strategy. They are in a great position to reap even more benefits from having a supportive relationship with their local retailers at a time when those relationships are going to become even more important.

We are certainly excited to see what the future holds. Learn more by reading our whitepaper: 10 Ways "Online" Will Change Life for Brands and Retailers in 2012.

Read these other posts for more on this subject:
Mobile Brings “No Boundaries” Shopping Power to Merchants, Too
As We Predicted, Retail Shopping Boundaries Are Dissolving
Federal Legislation for Out-of-State Online Taxes Appears Imminent 

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