01 Nov, 2017

Are Web Malls The New Brick and Mortar Malls?

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One would say that the beauty and appeal of brick and mortar malls is the fact that you can walk into the mall at any given time (depending on its hours, of course) and potentially find what you are looking for, by narrowing down your search process to one single store that will meet your needs.

In a similar way, the beauty and appeals of online shopping are that you can do the same thing, without leaving the comfort of your home, or in this case, your wifi signal. This is why e-commerce and brick and mortar stores have been in competition with one another since e-commerce grew in the retail sector.

“Current e-commerce statistics state that 40 percent of worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online via desktop, mobile, tablet or other online devices. This amounts to more than 1 billion online buyers and is projected to continuously grow.” Statisa reports. 

The debate between online shopping and in-store shopping has been highly debated among business professionals and consumers, who have either shifted over their shopping preferences completely to web browsing or are still walking into malls.

Fashion searches online have become a huge priority for shoppers. Browsing for products before making a purchase is common, and because of this, e-commerce stores have taken note, and are working to upgrade their search engine optimization. If these stores fall short, they are at risk for losing a large customer base.

Retailers are putting e-commerce as a priority, as online shopping increases. According to SPS Commerce, retailers insights have expanded to include e-commerce and omnichannel progress. Take a look below at some recent insights that have been uncovered surrounding the growing online retail industry:

  • Retailers rank growing e-commerce sales as their top priority (75 percent) followed by improving the in-store experience (53 percent).
  • Distributors (80 percent) and logistics providers (41 percent) are focused on rapid fulfillment above all else.
  • Suppliers (80 percent) place streamlined fulfillment as their top priority, yet 45 percent lag in omnichannel strategy and execution with only 18 percent claiming even moderate success.
  • Retailers cite more or improved item attributes as their top desire from vendors in 2016 (69 percent), while distributors need vendors to provide visibility to available inventory (75 percent).
  • Legacy systems (59 percent) and cultures adverse to change (38 percent) are key inhibitors to retailers’ omnichannel progress.
  • Retailers rate their visibility to available inventory from supplier warehouses as critically low (21 percent) and in-store visibility at insufficient levels (75 percent) to meet consumer demand.

As more retailers approach an omnichannel effort into their business operations, a new type of e-commerce site has emerged. This site is called a web mall, and Wal-Mart is leading its efforts to make sure this mall is on top of the retail battle, a B2C organization that is leading retail initiatives.

Shop ‘Til You Drop (At The Web Mall)

When I was younger, I would anticipate going to the mall with my friends on a Friday night. It became a go-to activity and one that I looked forward to. It wasn’t about the clothes I would purchase (because I wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough) it about the experience that the mall offered. It was a place to gather, window shop, and socialize. It was kind of like the old-fashioned Snapchat, that connected groups of people together. Except, I didn’t have access to the internet and a soft pretzel did the trick.

Now, malls have a new meaning. They represent a different kind of shopping experience, and are at risk with being replaced with a new experience that many consumers can agree, is more convenient. This convenient shopping experience is known as a web mall. It is basically an e-commerce site, with additional stores added on, and Wal-Mart is leading the initiatives, with Lord & Taylor joining its efforts.

Wal-Mart & Lord & Taylor

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is near a deal to add Lord & Taylor to its website, part of a broader effort by the retail giant to build an online shopping destination that can compete with Amazon.com Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.” The Wall Street Journal reports. 

This mall will be a branch of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce site, except with different products incorporated from Lord and Taylor. This deal would be a step in the direction of a platform that resembles retail giant Amazon’s site, which offers consumers an endless amount of inventory, ranging from many different points of interest. This will position Wal-Mart above of the competition with Amazon, that is growing constantly.

Wal-Mart also owns brands Bonobos, Jet.com, ModCloth, Moosejaw, and Shoebuy, which could potentially be added to the site as well. This would create an exclusive site that offers customers with endless opportunities to shop, resembling a traditional brick and mortar store.

“While Lord & Taylor and Walmart appear to have little in common, the Journal article sees the alliance as a continuation of steps taken by the world’s largest retailer to expand offerings to appeal to a wider swath of consumers, as evidenced by its recent acquisitions.” RetailWire reports. 

When it comes to Wal-Mart’s recent acquisition with Lord and Taylor, it only proves a further point that retailers must start thinking about incorporating all aspects of the retail sector, in order to fully meet the needs of the growing online audience.

Wal-Mart is thinking of the future of retail and is staying one step ahead of the competition by revamping e-commerce operations. The battle between Amazon and Wal-Mart has been an ongoing battle, both cooperations pulling out different strategies in order to stay competitive.

“When Wal-Mart reported its financial results, investors were looking for signs that the world’s largest retailer could meet the challenges presented by the shift in consumer behavior. As it turns outs, the company showed that its strategy is bearing fruit.” Business Insider reports.

Even though Lord and Taylor have an online site already, joining forces with Wal-Mart will expand its audience and create more advantages for the e-commerce site. RetailWire hosted a discussion on their site of retail experts. Here are two  quotes that stuck out:

“It seems that Walmart is being tremendously creative — and hopefully will be successful — with their approach. Walmart will (should) certainly add others to its mall, to all the participants’ benefit (including Walmart). Don’t make the mistake of thinking Walmart is stuck in its original image. It’s the only company I see that can launch (and succeed) in a successful, mass effort to challenge Amazon.’ Retail Wire reports. (Naomi K. Shapiro, Strategic Market Communications, Upstream Commerce🙂

“I know I’ve been quoted on this in an even more public forum, but what the heck are both sides thinking? Where is there any crossover whatsoever between Walmart and Lord & Taylor customers and, if you were Lord & Taylor, is THIS where you’d go prospecting?” Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research: Retail Wire reports. 

Advantages Of Online Web Malls

Since Wal-Mart is leading the initiative into creating an online web mall, it is important to understand what the advantages are when it comes to web malls v. brick and mortar stores for consumers, so you can position yourself to dive into the conversation.

When it comes to the shopping experience, digital components are now a crucial factor to success. Even when shoppers are in the store, they are most likely on their phones. We live in a world where we can always be connected digitally. Mobile phones give customers the power to be more on the go than ever before, which means the retail industry is forced to adapt.

Shoppers depend on their phones to research things like coupons, price checking, and product research. Knowing this, brick and mortar stores, especially malls, can incorporate digital components to operations.

Convenience

Online shopping malls give consumers the ultimate convenience factor when it comes to shopping. Gone are the days where you have to wait on lines at the mall. Web malls will give you the option to stay in the comfort of your own home while purchasing products. This makes holiday shopping easier since you can avoid the peak times of mall traffic.

More Browsing Options

Web malls allow you to browse whether you know exactly what you need, or if you are looking for inspiration. Browsing options are made easier, all with a click of a button and a keyword. Keyword searches are huge components of online shopping, and they drive sales more than ever.

As a retailer, keyword searches help websites reach SEO, and increase web traffic, as well as create a personalized shopping appeal that consumers enjoy.

“Every time someone does a search, the search engine must decide which handful of results to display from hundreds of thousands of possible pages. It’s up to the search engine algorithms to determine the best and most relevant matches for every single search.” Shopify reports. 

More Selection

As we discussed earlier, web malls are similar to brick and mortar malls being that they both offer an endless selection of inventory that can range from sporting goods to clothing, to technology. This gives web malls a chance to really incorporate different brands and companies into their selection. As far as consumers go, this benefits their shopping experience, because it gives customers more options from an online shopping approach.

It is clear that consumers prefer more options while shopping. In fact, Big Commerce has put together a report that indicates just that.

  • 60% of shoppers have purchased clothing, shoes and accessories items from large retailers, 54% at marketplaces, 44% from category-specific and 45% from websites.
  • 43% of online shoppers have purchased computers or electronics from marketplaces, 41% from large retailers, 29% at category-specific online stores and 17% at websites.
  • 34% of shoppers have purchased beauty items at marketplaces, 31% at large retailers, 29% at websites and 25% at category-specific online stores.

So, the question still stands: are web malls the new brick and mortar malls? The answer is a hard one to combat, especially since there are so many factors to the competition that brick and mortar retailers face. The expansion of e-commerce is only going to grow, as stores like Wal-Mart are making efforts to expand online shopping, by incorporating brick and mortar stores to join the bandwagon.

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As retail giant Wal-Mart creates more initiatives to dive into e-commerce operations, it is clear that the retail industry is shifting toward digital components more than ever. If both retailers Wal-Mart and Lord & Taylor come together, it will only further execute digital initiatives into the retail industry, creating a web mall that threatens the livelihood of all e-commerce sites. It sets the bar high for online shopping, creating endless opportunities for retailers to adopt. Web malls create a more broad shopping experience, which further threatens the future of brick and mortar malls.

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