Ecommerce and the Shape-Shifting Retail Industry

As more and more of our technological devices are connected to the internet, the fine-line separating shopping online and shopping in-store, is wearing increasingly thin.

With smart-technology now the reality of retailing, responsible for the transformation of clicks ruthlessly replacing bricks and mortar; online shopping is where an increasing number of consumers are now making final purchases, via the ever-developing customer-centric omni-channel retail landscape, accessed through a diverse range of compatible technological devices.

This undeniable industry change, is what is spurring on high street retailers to go to ever-greater lengths to attract consumers to enter their physical stores; providing live music, piercing bars, free drinks and give-aways, and in some stores, even virtual reality experiences; proof that although retailers are conscious of this seismic shift in shopping behaviour, they still wish to retain a firm grip on their gradually receding high-street presence.

Shops which unfortunately fell victim to the online diversification of the retail industry include big name retailers Woolworths and BHS; and most recently, Argos have slowly but surely started to remove their traditional paper catalogues from stores, due to decline in demand for an in-store presence, due to consumers’ increasing growing reliance on online shopping.

Yet despite the closure of physical stores on the high-street, today’s consumers still seem to be much more enamoured with digital convenience rather than physical experience, as each day, new consumers continue to join the almighty allegiance of online shoppers.

Such is the situation, that any physical store now understands that creating and maintaining an online presence, visible by the consumer, is just as, if not more important, than their store physically existing on the high street.

Retailers who were early advocates of the digitisation of retail, have ensured they are recognised as e-tailers as well as retailers, managing a combination of a physical, and an online store, to consciously accommodate and provide for customer-centric purchasing behaviour, now rife within the retail industry, in a bid to use their websites, and high-street stores, to create as personalised a shopping experience for each individual shopper as possible.

From exclusive in-store experiences, to intangible online shops, an increasing number of retailers are investing in implementing modern technology to make purchasing a more innovative process for the consumer; which simultaneously works to improve levels of customer experience whilst simultaneously increasing consumers’ advocacy for their brand.

Alongside online stores, retailers are using social media to their advantage to create an interactive and immersive online experience for the consumer. As an example, the use of cameras and videos allows the consumer to be able to virtually ‘try’ clothes and shoes before they buy, from the comfort of wherever they happen to be, using their mobile devices.

ASOS recently launched their new and innovative ‘visual search’ tool that tells consumers where fellow shoppers bought their outfits. Through the use of cameras, shoppers are able take photos of items via the app, and be recommended items that are an exact match, or bargain doppelgänger.

Quite simply the internet provides retailers with a diverse social, digital, platform upon which to build their easily distinguishable digital domain.

Thanks to technology, the processes involved within the retail industry have experienced a drastic yet innovative shift in the last ten years, becoming very customer-centric, and ultimately putting the consumer in control. This reliance on technology, detracts from the need for human interaction, and doesn’t seem to have plans to cease anytime soon.

In 2015 statistics showed that nearly one-third of all online sales constituted purchases made online. The human consumer now co-exists in a world of artificial intelligence systems, emulating the human-role of processing orders, and managing customer service, queries and complaints.

For now, the remnants of traditional retail, and physical stores have not yet been wholly relinquished; however, within the ever-developing behemoth that is the digital-age, it seems that only time and technology stand in the way of a holistic digital-retail experience.

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