Offline Retail Sales Still Dominate: Notes for the Online Marketer

The US retail industry sees more than 3 trillion dollars in revenue annually, so while eCommerce is a thriving part of the economy, bringing in hundreds of billions of dollars, that is still just the tip of the retail iceberg. So, why do offline retail sales still dominate? Or, more to the point, why are people still shopping in stores? Understanding the reasons can help your online business thrive.

According to recent research, one concern with online shopping is that returns could be difficult. Allowing returns in-store for items bought online, coupled with not charging shipping for returns, can quickly overcome this issue.

This goes along with another issue for consumers: shipping costs. Some ways to overcome these concerns are: (1) offer free shipping (or, perhaps free shipping with a minimum order amount or just on no-rush orders); (2) charge minimal shipping instead of marking up the shipping costs to make an extra buck; (3) offer promotions on shipping on occasion. (Promotions can even be used as a test to see if increased sales would cover the cost of eliminating shipping altogether).

‘Immediacy’ is another thing that can make consumers cringe. Often, shoppers want or need the product immediately. Certainly, they don’t want the billing to be instantaneous while waiting to receive their product in a week or two. While you can’t teleport their items, try to work on faster shipping (without charging a fortune), or, allowing for in-store pickup if the item is available locally.

Perhaps the biggest reason offline retail sales still dominate is because the online shopper can’t pick up, try on, or test out a product before buying it. You may be able to combat this with free samples, as they may help you get a higher conversion rate. In lieu of that, entice customers with free, no hassle returns. This way they can get the product and try it on or play around with it a little. Offer a free return in case they don’t want it. Most people will keep what they buy unless they truly hate it.