A Change in Balance: From Brick-and-Mortar to Online Retail

Is the world seeing the end of brick-and-mortar retail? The short answer is no. In detail, it’s more complicated, but e-commerce is noticeably thriving in comparison.

Is the world seeing the end of brick-and-mortar retail? The short answer is no. In detail, it’s more complicated, but e-commerce is noticeably thriving in comparison. Consumer shopping behaviors, for now, have changed drastically. Some say even permanently. Brick-and-mortar shops are finding ways to adjust to the changes, however. In this post, we’ll look in more detail at the changes in shopping behaviors, and at how brick-and-mortar to online retail is adapting.

2021: From brick and mortar to online retail

2020 upended brick-and-mortar retail when the global pandemic forced all of us to drastically change our daily behaviors, habits, and routines. Now, in 2021, not much has changed, particularly in our shopping habits and for retailers. Brick-and-mortar stores are still having to adjust to growing consumer trends towards online rather than in-store shopping. In the U.S. alone, online shopping increased by 53% as consumer habits responded to Covid-19. 

It was also reported that 45% of consumers had products delivered to their homes, and 92% use “click-and-collect” to make purchases online and pick them up in-person or curbside. Rapid changes like these are now forcing more and more brick-and-mortar retailers to step up their digital presence. They have to meet growing demand, and, more importantly, to make up for declines in revenue. 

To cushion the impact, even traditionally brick-and-mortar stores look to professional product photography for their e-shops, websites, and anywhere their products appear online. By using professional product photos, 2D/3D photorealistic images, and more immersive product experiences overall, brands are finding ways to again put products “in the hands'' of consumers. Let’s look now at how brands are finding opportunity in adversity, and the shift from brick-and-mortar to online retail in 2021.

Significant facts and statistics on brick and mortar vs online retail

Just to capture a better picture of the overall shift in brick and mortar and online retail, here are a few telling statistics.

  • In the last quarter of 2020, NIKE Inc. Chief Executor John Donahue reported a 38% drop in sales which they said was due to the closure of physical stores. NIKE’s app use and online sales, however, softened the overall decline with an increase of 75%.
  • Similarly, clothing retailer H&M saw a massive decline in revenue by 50%, while online sales increased 36%. They have announced many store closures to offset the losses in revenue.
  • INDITEX, owner of brands like ZARA, reported a 95% spike in online sales, and like others announced the closure of many of their physical locations in the coming year.

Across the market, consumer shopping behaviors have already changed significantly since 2020. This is evident around the globe. People simply aren’t shopping as they once did. How long these changes will last is hard to say, but for now it’s clear that brick-and-mortar stores have a lot of changes to address.

Responding to the market trends 

In the current situation, the truth is that it has now become essential that consumers can shop online. It’s also equally vital that businesses can still deliver online, even if they come from brick-and-mortar roots. 

Larger, more established businesses will have more time and leeway to adapt to these new market demands. For SMEs and growing businesses, however, how they respond to the new climate can make or break their business. 

With more online consumers and expectations higher than ever, standard product images simply aren’t enough. You need photos that stand out, grab attention, and keep consumers on your page rather than taking that click away to the competition. Product images are not only the face of your brand, they are now a valuable sales driver in a time of increased online retail. 

Responding to new consumer habits

With the shift to online shopping, one of the most significant pain points consumers experience is not being able to physically inspect products. They have to judge the quality of the brand and the product with only the brand’s product photography to form their opinion. 

This means for retailers to succeed, not only do they need professional product photography on their website, they also need product images that leave nothing to the imagination. Product images need to be in high resolution, possess deep fields of zoom, and must convey vital information about products so that consumers can make confident purchases.

To meet these demands, brands are competing with high-quality product images and more immersive product experiences. These include spin photography, 3D models, and visual product configurators. Professional 2D / 3D product content like this can show significant impacts on conversion rates, returns, and overall revenue. More importantly, it can also establish and reinforce your brand’s digital image in a market shifting to favor online retail.

Making product images the face of your brand

For larger businesses who already have a product photography studio running, the main goal is consistency across visual content. For SMEs and growing brick-and-mortar stores, however, the challenge is finding where to begin in the first place. 

Professional product photography traditionally requires a studio for pre production, a photographer for production, and image editing software for post production. Then you need the web tools to host your product images online.

This can seem a tall order on a tight budget and not knowing where to look. Certainly, one way is to hire out a professional product photography team, and have them handle all the heavy-lifting. Another is to find your own in-house solutions for product photography. While these might require an initial investment, the ROI and scalability this route provides is worth consideration even for smaller webshops and online retailers.

Finding the best tools for the transition (How to get started)

If you’re looking to start producing your own professional product photography, or if you want ways to get more out of your studio, PhotoRobot is here to help. We assist clients with both launching and improving on product photography operations for e-commerce and online retail. 

Our photography robots and our software for control and automation are designed for product photography operations of any scale. If it’s for a small webshop or an industrial-scale photography studio, PhotoRobot has the solutions to meet all of your demands and more. 

To discover more about starting the transition from brick-and-mortar to online retail, or to find out what PhotoRobot can do for your brand, contact PhotoRobot today.

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