Surviving the Amazon Effect

Customer Strategy
Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to change to survive the move to ecommerce and remain competitive in an increasingly online environment.

Recently I went to one of my favorite stores in Manhattan with the aim of making a couple of purchases. But when I got to my destination, I found a padlocked door and barred-up windows. Another store had bitten the dust.Unfortunately, store closures seem to be happening way too often. Last month Staples announced that it would be closing more than 200 stores across the United States as half of the company's sales move online.

And last week, an article in The Atlantic indicated that while retail sales are on the increase, the rise in e-commerce means that retail jobs are on the decline. "E-commerce is gobbling up one percentage point of total sales every two-and-a-half years. Call it the Amazon Effect," the article noted.

I am one of the consumers contributing to the shift to online shopping. The convenience of making a purchase online and have an item delivered to my home in a mere two days often supersedes any wish for instant gratification. Why should I bother finding a haberdashery for a reel of thread or get lost at Home Depot looking for a pair of pliers? And why would I want to lug detergent and paper towels all the way from Costco? Over the past few years my household has become a big Amazon convert and the ecommerce site has become the first place my husband and myself resort to when looking for anything we need.

Does this mean that people like me are spelling the end for bricks-and-mortar retailers? Probably not, or at least not anytime soon. As 1to1 Media noted in this article, physical retailers do have a future, as long as they're willing to make changes, primary of which is investing in knowledgeable associates who can act as trusted advisors and help customers make purchases.

Of course, not every store can be saved. Some companies will realize that they're more effective changing their model to an e-commerce one and make investments to provide a better experience online. Technology advances will contribute to this trend, like it has in the case of music and books, which can so easily be bought online and downloaded instantly.

Nobody knows what the future holds. Perhaps, we will be able to 3D print a dress we saw online while we're getting ready to go out. We can't say what impact innovations will have on physical stores, but what is certain is that if they want to survive--at least for now--retailers have no choice but to make changes.