Amazon, WayFair, E-Bay, Alibaba and many other online mega stores are transforming how we shop for goods and services. Shopping has almost always meant travelling to a store and buying a product. We’re still making the journey to a store, but the word “travel” appears to have taken on a new meaning.

The traditional storefront is being transformed into a digital dashboard that streamlines the purchase process and drops the product on your doorstep. Travel is now measured in clicks as opposed to kilometres and retail therapy  now involves staring at a screen and filling a virtual shopping cart. Does this spell the end of “brick and mortar” shopping?

Recent research presented by Deloitte indicates that online shopping is growing at a rate 3 times faster than the traditional “brick and mortar” visits. In 2018 online shopping is projected to represent over half of the Holiday sales in the fourth quarter. More people buying online means less visits to the mall….right? If that’s true it’s not a reach to think that the number of “brick and mortar” shops are going to decrease and maybe disappear all together. 

The fall of massive retailers such as Sears, Toys R Us, and Nine West are all signals of  digital transformation that is chipping away at the foundation of traditional retail. What’s interesting is, not unlike the digital transformation in the newsprint business, many industry experts believe that the change is an evolution that puts the weaker species of traditional retail into extinction while the stronger move on. Is the struggling storefront going to rebound or is e-Commerce eventually going to be the truck that runs it into the ground?

The folks at Google seem to think that “brick and mortar” is here to stay and will become an important part of the mobile shopping experience. Instinctively we all want to be able to touch what we buy or be able to get it instantly whenever we decide we can afford it. As Google suggests, people start their journey online and then quickly move to a location to pick up their purchase completing the shopping experience in a store. If given the choice, many will go and get it as opposed to wait for it to arrive.

The largest online retailer in the world, Amazon is clearly reading the same research data as Google. Their recent evolution into “brick and mortar” with Amazon Go shows that even the biggest of the big online stores see the benefit of creating a tactile shopping experience where the shopper can be immersed in the product.

So for now it looks like retail therapy may be safe. Although there is a transformation underway, it seems that until we have a Star Trek Replicator or Holodeck in our homes we’re stuck with shopping at a grocery store or lining up at the Best Buy for Cyber Monday deals. The upside is we can stare at our mobile screens when we’re standing in the lineup.