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Can Pure Play On-Line Retailers Survive?

It was just a few years ago that I read numerous articles predicting the inevitable death of retail stores. This doom and gloom scenario played out across most of the trade publications leaving retailers scratching their heads in wonderment and worried that if they didn't do something (they didn't know what) they would be overtaken by their cooler, lower cost, on-line cousins.

Of course we all know now that this reality was never going to happen and what has ensued during that time is actually the opposite. Sure - traditional brick and mortar stores have high overhead, restrictive real estate leases, ballooning labor costs, often times bloated inventories, and the list goes on. But the one thing that they do have is an advantage that all on-line players are envious of: the ability to engage their customers in a rich, tactile and meaningful way.

In a recent article, The Store of The Future Has Arrived (and No, It's Not Apple), there are a lot of great examples of the growing convergence between on-line and in-store. We've all seen examples of retailers trying to bring the on-line experience in store with digital innovations and new ways to create a more immersive brand experience. What's new though - is the reverse - pure play retailers trying to figure out how to open stores and create an entirely new customer experience.

My prediction - eventually most retailers will have to have both - whether for competitive reasons, logistics, branding, or otherwise - there will be few retailers who will survive with just an on-line or just an in-store presence.

What has been your experience?

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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