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Report: E-commerce and retail stores going “hand-in-hand”

Survey finds retailers plan to open more warehouses and distribution centers this year.

Traditional and online retailing are becoming “increasingly intertwined” as consumers are starting to “seamlessly shop” across e-commerce platforms and physical stores, according to the annual State of Retail Online study compiled by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consulting firm Forrester Research.

Of the companies surveyed as part of this annual study, 32% were “pureplay” online retailers while 57% were multichannel retailers, including traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers that also sell online.

This year’s study also reveals that 43% of store-based retailers expect a net increase in the number of bricks-and-mortar stores they operate by the end of 2018 compared with 2017, and only 16% expect a net reduction. Additionally, retailers are proactively working on their real estate assets, whether testing new store formats such as opening some type of pop-up store (24%), and opening new warehouses or distribution centers (12%).

New physical locations are important because 42% of those retailers polled said “faster delivery” of online orders is their “top customer-facing priority,” with many planning to use stores to achieve that goal. Omnichannel services such as buy online, pick up in-store are an in-store priority for 21%, along with 15% that cite ship-from-store as a fulfillment priority.

“This report shows more than ever that retail is retail regardless of where a sale is made or how the product is delivered,” noted Mark Matthews, NRF’s vice president for research development and industry analysis. “Products ordered online are increasingly picked up in-store or shipped from a nearby store, and digital technology being used at bricks-and-mortar locations lets retailers help customers find what they want or make the sale even if the product is out of stock. Traditional retailers have seen the opportunities of online selling for years now, and those selling online increasingly see that stores are part of the key to success.”

“More brands plan to open stores versus close them this year, which proves that the physical retail store is not doomed as many think it is,” added Sucharita Kodali, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst. “Smart retailers understand that the two go hand-in-hand, but customer-obsessed retailers will continue investing in areas like omnichannel to provide customers with the seamless on and offline experiences they expect and now require. This year’s survey proved that while they have work to do in 2018, retailers are moving in the right direction.”

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