Retailers see online as sink or swimUnited Press International
Major U.S. retail chains say they have no choice but to compete with purely online stores, and they are figuring out how to do it.
"We are living in the age of the customer, and you can either fight these trends that are happening -- show-rooming is one -- or you can embrace them," the chief executive of Walmart.com for the United States Joel Anderson told The New York Times.
"We have a lot of assets, but they're only assets if you embrace the trends of the customers," he said.
"Show-rooming" refers to customers who walk into a brick and mortar store, find an item they like, and then use their smartphones to find a better prices for that item online. The stores pay overhead on rent, utility bills and labor costs, but are treated by customers as a showroom for online firms like Amazon.
Many customers prefer to pay with cash, and some don't want to give out credit card information online. Walmart and other stores allow those customers to place orders online, and then drive to a store where their orders have been pulled from shelves, and they can make a transaction in person.
"Unfortunately, stores have been portrayed as the ugly stepsister here," said Fiona Dias, the chief strategy officer at ShopRunner -- a partnership of retailers and brands that helps shoppers find products online -- referring to bulky, old-fashioned retail outlets.
While having a physical premise in a neighborhood has "disadvantages," Dias said, "the advantages of having a physical footprint are many."
Some customers want the merchandise in their hands as soon as possible. Even super-fast delivery times are not fast enough for some.
"People have a certain need for immediacy -- they want something that same day. They want to have their hands on it; they don't want to wait," said Tom Aiello, a spokesman for Sears.