Brick-And-Mortar Vs. E-commerce in 2021 (and the future)

As we all know e-commerce really took off in the past year. This is because physical store locations were forced to close or limit their normal services. As e-commerce sales increased, brick and mortar locations were struggling. But in the past year, we have seen a lot of changes, good and bad. People often assume that brick & mortar/retail is dead, especially after the past year, but this is not true. We are here to help everyone understand what happened during the pandemic in the retailer vs. e-commerce debate and how retailers are making their way back with new approaches. 

E-commerce During the Pandemic:

E-commerce sales skyrocketed during the pandemic as consumers were forced to stay home due to statewide lockdowns. These spending habits seemed to continue even with restrictions loosening at the end of 2020 and into 2021. E-commerce shopping alone resulted in $174.87 billion in revenue in 2020. E-commerce powerhouses such as Amazon, sold 3.4 billion products from May 2020 to May 2021 from various marketplace sellers. With the acceleration of e-commerce, the gap between the best and worst brands widened and distinguished those who could keep up and those who fell behind. With that being said, it might seem that retail died during the pandemic and had no chance to recover. This is not entirely true, but we will first dive into how brick and mortar stores were affected by the pandemic. 

Brick and Mortar During the Pandemic: 

As expected, online shopping rose tremendously during the many months of lockdown. During those tough months, the shift from a mix of purchases being made online and/or in person is dramatic. In a survey done by Forbes in August of 2020, 67% of consumers said that they switched to buying clothing online versus in a store. And 56% of the survey respondents also reported that they were buying all groceries online rather than going in to browse the grocery aisles. It was understandable why consumers were not willing/comfortable to go into stores. But now as many Americans have/are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, they are more willing and more excited to be able to visit stores in-person. This is great news, especially for those businesses who were greatly affected by the pandemic, but they need to figure out a way to keep up with the e-commerce retailers which we will touch on in the next section.  

Brick and Mortar Keeping Up: 

While retailers did suffer during the harsh year of the pandemic, they are slowly coming back around but in a new and improved way. To keep up Brick and Mortar have shifted to a more digitally-friendly approach in various ways. This includes contactless payment, self-checkout, and digital signage.  In addition to being more digitally friendly, retailers are creating an omnichannel experience for their customers. Omnichannel is essentially a uniformed experience across all platforms, this includes the physical store experience, on the website, mobile apps, and social media. By using this approach, retailers have been able to keep up or keep up more than they would have without this strategy. While this isn’t always an easy transition, the omnichannel approach could be the key to surviving especially in a post-pandemic world. 

The conversation of brick and mortar not being able to survive against the giants of e-commerce will always be present, but there is a way for them to keep up. While not all problems are solved currently, retailers are moving in the right direction by promoting themselves in both the physical and digital space. So to answer the big question: Is retail dead? The answer is still no. But there is work to be done, and we here at OneVoice encourage consumers to shop and eat locally to help support those businesses as we slowly come out of this very dark time. 

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