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Will E-commerce Replace the Physical Store?

Christmas shopping trends

The secrets of ROPO: research online, purchase offline

The Spanish retail tech company Beabloo ensures that shoppers in the future will still visit physical stores, and that brick and mortar can benefit from an online strategy.

Is the physical store in danger of extinction? Since the beginning of e-commerce, this threat has loomed over the retail sector. However, the outlook is bright. 71% of Spanish consumers decide to go to a physical store to buy a product for the first time, even though they look up information about the product online first. This behavior, known as ROPO (research online, purchase offline), is a rising trend among Spanish consumers.

Customers looking up product information online and buying in stores (ROPO), as well as the opposite trend of “showrooming” (checking out products in a store before buying online), are two new concepts used to describe shopping habits born from new retail technologies.

According to the latest study by IAB Spain, 91% of consumers that start the shopping process by researching information online end up making a purchase (wither online or offline). At least 23% of purchases are made in physical stores.

The Observatorio Cetelem performed a deep statistical analysis and concluded that the traditional store will continue to dominate e-commerce in categories like home goods, appliances, technology, athletic attire and accessories. It is clear that customers prefer physical stores for buying clothing, since 57% of fashion purchases in Spain are made in physical stores.

This study also showed that 63% of Spaniards that buy online said they have occasionally visited a physical store before buying online, with at least 6% saying they always behaved this way.

The traditional store remains in the lead

Data shows that physical stores are still very important in the shopping process and can be the key to closing sales. In Spain, shoppers still prefer seeing products in person, getting to talk about their characteristics, and asking questions to store employees. It is also considered a tradition to visit commercial areas around the winter holidays.

“Physical stores provide a multisensory experience that e-commerce can’t offer, no matter how good the online experience is. Looking at the way things are going, it seems like consumers will continue to favor physical stores since they let customers feel close to the products and the brand, especially if they have a digital strategy to support them,” ensures Jaume Portell, CEO of Beabloo, a Spanish company that is leading the retail tech and digital consulting sectors. They are one of the few companies in the sector that provide their own software solutions and consulting.

The market share of e-commerce is growing around the world, but growth is slow in Spain. According to Kantar, in the United Kingdom, e-commerce has 7.8% of the market share, while Spain has stayed at 1.8% in the past year.

This data shows that brands need to work on creating a strategy that integrates online and offline channels and lets consumers move freely between the two. This would make the online and offline worlds complement each other and work together.

Jaume Portell, CEO of Beabloo and retail tech expert, and Enric Quintero, General Manager of Beabloo and online analytics expert, combine their knowledge to create solutions for companies who want to make the shopping experience flow seamlessly between the online website and the offline physical store. “The future is sensory, and shopping in the future will be experimental. Brands need to ensure that their strategy and provided experience is synchronized across all channels,” says Portell.

Guiomar Fernandez