news • Jan 30 2024

Double Duty: Here’s How Online Ordering is Fusing with Brick and Mortar

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping was already popular. However, that period helped it skyrocket to a whole new level. According to the Annual Retail Trade Survey, e-commerce sales increased by $244.2 billion or 43% in 2020. But that doesn’t mean the traditional method of going into a retail store is gone. In fact, consumers repeatedly demonstrate that they crave quality, local shopping experiences. 

As we look toward the future, we’re going to see more examples of how the two genres integrate using comprehensive technology. As Forbes wisely wrote, “smart fulfillment strategies can help retailers meet their needs across channels.” Here’s a look at how a few important retail genres are finding a way to make shopping a more fulfilling experience for all parties involved.  

 

The Grocery Model

Amazon, Walmart and Instacart accounted for 67% of the online grocery market size in 2021. But as anyone who goes grocery shopping knows, brick-and-mortar supermarkets are thriving post-pandemic, as well. Many consumers enjoy comparing prices and saving money by shopping in person, rather than relying on a third party. 

“Walking through the store gives shoppers the chance to browse end caps, displays and other sources of inspiration that enable real-time meal planning using on-sale items,” a report by Morning Consult cited in Progressive Grocer shared. “Even if there are no fees for online orders, shoppers may feel like they can get better deals and save more by shopping in-store.” 

As Forbes states, grocery stores with proximity to their customers have a tremendous capability at their feet if they’re willing to take hold of it: integrating online shopping with their in-store locations. By consciously designing grocery stores to embrace both online ordering and in-store shopping, they’re setting their future up for success. In order to do so, a new reliance on technology needs to be taken into consideration. This means implementing new systems like zone-batch picking to streamline the process. The system designates whoever is picking out the groceries for the consumer to one special area of the store. This cuts down on the time it takes them to walk around and bag the items. This also allows the retailer to monitor the efficiency of whoever is doing the picking.

 “With the grocery industry’s future set to be defined by a fusion of in-store and online shopping, in-store real estate can be utilized to help retailers meet customers’ ever-increasing expectations for quick, friction-free fulfillment and thereby go toe-to-toe with larger e-commerce firms,” Forbes says. 

By focusing on the experience of the consumer, the grocery industry can ensure smooth, hassle-free shopping that the customer wants to participate in. The additional assets of technology to create a seamless experience are an added bonus.

 

The Drugstore Model

Many of us grew up with the typical local drugstore where you’d run for medicine or a roll of toilet paper. As the small mom-and-pop shops started to fade, we saw the proliferation of online shopping. However, that strictly-online mentality leaves out something people really want: an in-store shopping experience that is smooth, efficient and just as streamlined as the click of a button online.

As the Wall Street Journal recently shared, Walgreens is capitalizing on its brick-and-mortar locations by taking advantage of them as fulfillment centers. By closing a traditional fulfillment center and betting on its 8,700 bricks-and-mortar stores, Walgreens is “going all-in on the idea that its stores will do double duty as both retail outlets and hubs for home deliveries.”  

Currently, Walgreens already offers customers same-day prescription delivery through DoorDash and Uber Eats for medications that are ready for pickup. Soon, they will take that to the next level for general retail items that don’t require a prescription. At the store locations, Walgreens will have its employees pick and pack items for same-day delivery through the third-party apps, which are looking to grow beyond food delivery.

“It’s that change in consumer behavior that we just absolutely cannot ignore,” a Walgreens executive shared with the WSJ. Like the grocery industry, drugstores are focusing on what the consumer wants, and creating an experience that truly delivers on their behalf. 

 

The Clothing Store Model

The children’s clothing industry is powerful. In fact, the global kids apparel market size was valued at $187.29 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow from $198.80 billion in 2023 to $318.34 billion by 2030. 

Janie and Jack, a children’s clothing brand, recently deployed a new system in 106 of its stores to seamlessly go between online shopping and the traditional in-store experience. It takes an experiential look at its retail model by doing several things differently, including integrating a variety of omnichannel retail capabilities. It provides associates with complete customer information, helping them deliver one-to-one customer service, and allows remote pay options for ship-from-store orders. 

The brand is certainly not alone. Recently, Canadian home brand Bouclair also adopted the same system. This demonstrates that no matter what type of product you’re selling, focusing on designing a unique, comprehensive shopping experience on the forefront of technology should always stay in focus. This new technology allows both companies to manage inventory receiving, cycle counting, store transfers, and inventory adjustments. In Bouclair’s case, it even allows them to function in French and English, and move seamlessly between the two languages. 

 

E-commerce has become part of our “new normal.” But that doesn’t mean shoppers  aren’t eager to step into the store for a high-quality, in-person shopping experience. By integrating smart fulfillment strategies into an industry, whether it’s drugstores, grocery, or general retail, retailers can meet the needs of their customers in a new, exciting way that provides a seamless experience for all. As we move forward in the post-pandemic era, it will be the responsibility of retailers to embrace these exciting new possibilities, therefore solidifying their staying power.

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