How to Compete with Online Merchants: Use Physical Advantages

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ICSC New York Update: JLL’s Steve Jones says, it’s easy for store retailers competing with online retailers to feel like they are pushing a boulder up a mountain in today’s web-driven economy. The good news for retailers is that not all consumers shop on price alone. The critical components of consumer buying habits are price, customer service and experience. Every consumer weighs these considerations differently, but each store needs to stand out in at least one, and preferably two, of these areas to be competitive.

Much has been said about the price advantages of the Internet, but there are many other ways that brick-and-mortar stores hold the edge for consumers. A major advantage is visual and tactile: shoppers can see, touch, sample or try on items. For consumers who have been disappointed by merchandise that didn’t live up to its photos online, this assurance is important.

Customer service is more of a mixed bag. The Internet, with its virtual inventory, often offers a better selection and is less frequently “out” of an item. However, stores offer “real” people to answer questions and offer suggestions on the spot. Plus, exchanging or returning an item to a store doesn’t require repacking, paying for shipping or waiting for an exchanged item. While many retail stores can’t beat the Internet on price, they can definitely demonstrate the advantages of physical sites and in-person relationships.

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