Ecommerce has been making its mark the past couple of years, but is still only a fraction of the overall retail industry.

Online retailers and ecommerce professionals have been eagerly speculating that online retail will soon overtake brick and mortar stores in terms of popularity and sales.

Despite optimistic holiday numbers, research has indicated that these speculations are simply not true.

Retail is growing in sales, but ecommerce only makes up a small fraction of that.

Online retail has no ceiling, unlike bricks and mortar stores. There is so much more room to grow for these businesses, and it’s easier for them to mimic brick and mortar routines than the other way around.

Here are some ways online retailers can take advantage of their online presence and exceed expectations:

Improve the customer experience 

If you’re a regular reader of ecommerce blog posts, this might sound like a broken record. But, it’s one of the few major advantages brick and mortar retailers have over online retailers.

There isn’t a salesperson readily available on all ecommerce sites to answer questions for consumers--yet.

Do you use live chat on your site? Offering (and publicizing) live chat can be just as useful as having a salesperson in your virtual store. Approximately 73% of customers view live chat as the most satisfying form of customer service while shopping online.

Another way you can satisfy customers is providing large, clear images with different angles of your products online.

The clarity of the pictures, along with in-depth descriptions, can provide the customer with the similar experience as shopping in-store. 

Increase your reach

As an online retailer, if you want to expand your market, you may need to incur some additional shipping costs to ship farther. However, they don’t even come close to the costs of a brick and mortar store being built, purchasing products, and hiring employees. 

Expand your selling capabilities to larger markets in different parts of the world. Take China for example. Chinese ecommerce sales trump the United States’ by $121bn. Don’t let shipping costs deter you from that opportunity.

You should also adopt an effective shipping policy. One reason why Amazon is so popular among shoppers is because it requires sellers to ship their package within two days after the order was placed.

Fast, speedy delivery can provide the customer with more of a feeling of instant gratification.

Price dynamically

When you sell online, you can simply change your price with the click of a mouse or a tap on a mobile device.

With very few exceptions, in-store sellers have to print a new price, have someone go out on the floor, remove the old one, and replace it with the new one. Basically, it makes it hard to keep up.

Online retailers can adopt a dynamic pricing strategy and invest in automated repricing software to change their prices in accordance with market changes or changes in competitor prices. This enables them to have the best price available at any time of the day.

Big box retailers like Target and Walmart tried adopting price matching policies to compete with online prices over the 2014 holiday season, and the results were disappointing. Brick and mortar sales dropped 8%, and online retail’s increased by 13.9%.

Keeping up and gaining strength

Brick and mortar retailers are indubitably in the lead in the overall retail industry right now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Online retailers’ speed and efficiency can help them catch up to their brick and mortar counterparts, with a little bit of hard work of course.

Ecommerce still only makes up a fraction of retail as a whole, but I still believe online will play a big role in the future of retail. Soon enough, we may start seeing brick and mortar retailers being a mere fraction of ecommerce sales. 

What do you think online retailers will have to do to become a bigger part of retail as a whole?

Contributing writer: Brian Smyth

Ari Shpanya

Published 24 February, 2015 by Ari Shpanya

Ari is the co-founder of HomeShare and Zent , Graduate of the GSB Stanford Ignite program, and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (5)

Martin Wallace

Martin Wallace, Marketing Manager at Innometrics

Great article.

At Innometrics we recently released a case study of Denmark's largest retailer, Dansk Supermarked, showing how they increased online conversions by over 300% in an effort to start replicating their brick-and-mortar success.

Not overtaking offline just yet but a good start!

over 3 years ago


ERIKA LOCH, Head of Business Development at Avenue Imperial

Whilst BaM sales remain robust, one can't argue against the massive potential in eCommerce, particularly in the premium and luxury sectors, and where this article aptly outlines. That said, eCommerce has become fairly standardized and homogeneous, which makes it difficult for online channels to stand out and differentiate themselves for brands and retailers in the ways they can with BaM.
But new technologies are narrowing this gap and making it possible now for online shopping and experiences to more closely resemble the real life experience, to engaging and beautiful effect, like Avenue Imperial - a Virtual Shopping platform that has built virtual stores for the likes of Jimmy Choo and Karen Millen so users can actually explore and shop real spaces, view products in context of retail vision (where we know a large chunk of money is spent) with the convenience of online access, and access to sales associates.

over 3 years ago

Ari Shpanya

Ari Shpanya, co-founder at

Thanks for your comment, Martin.

Erika, thanks for the info. I completely agree, eCommerce has incredible potential this day in age, and I'm excited to see how retailers choose to differentiate themselves online.

over 3 years ago


Erdogan Karahan, Acount at Ozhat Ic Ve Dis Tic Tlt Sti

over 3 years ago


Erdogan Karahan, Acount at Ozhat Ic Ve Dis Tic Tlt Sti

over 3 years ago

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