Why do we go to shops when we can buy everything online?
What are shops for anyways? Are sales assistants actually doing anything? Can’t you help yourself?
I loved visiting bookstores as a kid. When I visit bookstores, my reading list lengthen – because I always find more new books I want to buy and read.
At the bookstore, you can pick up a book, browse any page, catch a whiff of the smell of its pages and for a single moment or more, feel as though the book actually belong to you. Though of course, it technically isn’t until you finalise the purchase.
Maybe that is the magic of physical retail.
It is the magic giving you the chance to live in an alternate reality when you actually have and own the product. At least for a while.
When you try on a jacket, or a pair of shoes, or experience using a new gadget. They all allow you to see or feel how it is like to have it.
And because you are concurrently within the reality where you don’t hold the product, you can equally decide which reality you actually prefer.
It engages all of your senses to experience the product, something that an online shop can never come close to doing. And the physical retail shop is the cheapest way for a company to deliver that experience. Because while there are rents to pay and overheads to maintain, your customer comes from elsewhere to you.
It is different from the online shop that is able to give you some kind of money-back guarantee should you choose to return the product. The logistics costs, carbon and material footprint that it creates may not be worth the while.
In 2021, the global retail sales figure is estimated to be $26 trillion, up more than 9% from 2020 when the pandemic resulted in a plunge in retail sales. E-commerce of course has been taking an ever increasing slice of the pie and it would make a lot of sense for recurring products. For new innovations however, there may still be a reason to set up a retail store.
This is why some of the major brands and platforms which first debut through e-commerce platforms eventually set up retail presence, because that is part of getting to the masses and entering the mainstream. The crowd that is willing to order, wait for something and find it suitable is not exactly going to form the mass market for your product – assuming it is not a niche product.
That’s why physical retail is not dead. At least not yet.