Internet Retailer 2011: Consumers research online but prefer to buy local

Publish Date: 
Jun 16, 2011
By Cynthia Furey

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Judging by the sheer number of attendees and exhibitors at the Internet Retailer Convention & Exhibition this year, it would seem as if the end of the brick-and-mortar store is frighteningly near. Each half hour seminar we’ve been to says e-commerce is a behemoth to be reckoned with, growing in Big Bang Theory-like proportions. We’ve overheard exhibitors telling retailers to invest most of their marketing dollars online.

Of course, this is the Internet Retailer show, so one would expect e-commerce to be the preferred subject of conversation.

But oneexhibitor revealed to Dealernews that even though e-commerce is growing exponentially, he thinks consumers always will desire the comfort of a brick-and-mortar store.

“Basically, people want to feel connected to a community,” says Ed Stevens, CEO of Shopatron. “The brick and mortar store will always be important.”

Brick-and-mortar has an edge over e-commerce in one main area; people want to "buy local." In fact, 75 percent of consumers polled by Forrester Research said they actually prefer to purchase goods locally.

“In powersports, manufacturers and consumers need dealers,” Stevens says. “I’m a motorcycle rider, and I need my dealer.”

Though there’s a large group of people who are turning to the Internet to shop, there are still shoppers who will do all of their product research online, then make their purchases in person, in a store.

“So there’s a new type of commerce that we’re seeing,” says Ed Stevens. “It’s not online stealing from offline, but it’s an online-offline hybrid. We’re seeing more growth in that area. It’s growing faster than just pure online commerce.”

To bridge this online/store gap, Shopatron acts as a middleman between manufacturers and retailers. Consumers can research and purchase products directly from manufacturers (Arctic Cat and Kendon are just two of the growing number of manufacturers employing Shopatron). In turn, the manufacturers funnel the orders to the dealers closest in proximity to the person who placed the order. The orders are fulfilled by the retailers in the manufacturer’s network, not the manufacturers themselves

Stevens says that Shopatron has been busy rolling out what it calls the “Five Point Customer Experience,” an upgrade, of sorts, to services already in place. These initiatives include better shopping and customer service experiences, more product information and delivery options, and a stronger community connection. Stevens emphasizes this last part.

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