E-commerce has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years, driven by lockdowns, social distancing, and remote work. Two years ago, only 17.8 percent of global sales were made from online purchases. That number is expected to reach 21 percent in 2022, a 17.9-percent increase over two years according to e-commerce platform Shopify, and hit 24.5 percent by 2025. In the Philippines, e-commerce revenue is projected to reach $20.182 million in 2022 and post an annual growth rate of 17.45 percent until 2025, according to Statista.
Does this mean that the physical store as a channel is reaching its demise? Not quite. It is, however, transforming to be part of renewed omnichannel strategies that companies need to look into as consumers are changing the way they buy online and offline. This is why business leaders need to adopt new omnichannel strategies in order to succeed.
The omnichannel concept has been around for the last decade. It was first introduced to the marketing world in 2010 to describe a shopping experience accessible to customers on all platforms — from traditional brick-and-mortar to the digital world of text messages, emails and online shopping. It reached hype status in 2013 due to the growth of smartphones. This meant setting up online stores apart from the brick-and-mortar outlets to compete against the likes of Amazon.
In the ensuing years, business leaders adopted omnichannel strategies as part of overall digital transformation plans. But in developing countries like the Philippines, this only meant setting up an online presence — be it a website or social media account — to promote products and services. Now, companies are compelled to revisit, if not adopt, new omnichannel strategies based on new consumer behaviors and demands. In fact, Shopify has observed shifting consumer behaviors that require companies to tweak their omnichannel strategies.
For one, consumers want in-person shopping after the pandemic. “Consumers are hungry for in-person shopping experiences and the camaraderie that comes with them,” according to a Forrester Consulting study conducted on behalf of Shopify. “Over the next year, 59 percent of consumers say they’re likely to look at a product online and buy in-store. This is otherwise known as webrooming.” Conversely, 54 percent are likely to “look at a product in-store and buy online — aka showrooming.” This means that retailers will need to consider launching a pop-up shop or opening a brick-and-mortar store, keeping the in-person shopping element in mind.
Another trend is the growing need of consumers for seamless shopping. Digital and physical shopping experiences have blended together in such a way that “retailers can no longer find the dividing line.” Shopify observed that this seamless shopping phenomenon manifests itself in a few ways.
First is the buy online, pick-up in-store. The Forrester Consulting study revealed that “43 percent of brands are focused on enabling the ability to see available inventory in nearby stores, something 56 percent of consumers find valuable.” This means shoppers can see product availability across multiple store locations to hopefully find the product and size they want.
Second is buy in-store, ship to home. In 2022, more brands are embracing the showrooming trend literally — they are opening product showrooms rather than traditional stores, according to Shopify. Showrooms typically carry less inventory, a strategy on its own. This strategy offers customers the option to buy products in-store and ship purchases directly to their house.
Last is buy online, return in-store. Stores are now offering customers the ability to return unwanted items in-store, effectively saving on return shipping costs, which is a large cost component in e-commerce operations. According to the Forrester Consulting study, “51 percent of consumers said the ability to check out online and return items to a physical store had a significant or very significant influence on their decision to order a product online.” Close to half of the brands in the study said that they planned on prioritizing this in 2022.
These trends point to the urgent need for retailers to adopt new omnichannel strategies. This is the only way to survive in the coming years.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines and a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University and can be emailed at email@example.com.