Brick and Mortar’s On-Demand Capabilities Could Beat Amazon

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Trends always have a way of coming back around and the retail industry is no exception. eCommerce is still getting its bearings as more consumers hop online to fuel its rapid growth, but instant gratification is keeping online retailers from really taking over. That’s where physical stores come in.

Multichannel retailers with brick and mortar stores have a distinct advantage because they are able to fulfill orders faster than ever. With Amazon’s Prime Now, UberRUSH, and more running the on-demand market, now is the time for retailers to make full use of their physical locations.

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In the next 5 years, the role of brick and mortar will pivot significantly as more shoppers opt to buy online and pick up or return in-store. On top of that, they offer a distinct advantage to shoppers who are getting accustomed to getting items as quickly as possible.

The retailers that are able to handle the demand and requests of their customers on all channels will emerge as winners. After all, Amazon has a physical store near their headquarters in Seattle, with more coming soon.

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Amazon also has warehouses across the continental U.S., with several in densely populated areas. The company gets it; more warehouses make fulfillment faster than ever. This fact makes them the clear winner in terms of being able to deliver faster than other marketplace competitors. But brick and mortar retailers have the opportunity to really compete. They could have significantly shorter delivery times since stores are more likely to be in or very close to urban areas, instead of farther out in the suburbs like large fulfillment centers.

Of course this introduces new types of challenges for retailers with brick and mortar stores. Smart inventory management will be required to make in-store pickup and on-demand deliveries work smoothly. Shoppers will be able to shop on many different channels and out of stock situations are to be avoided at all costs. Brick and mortar stores will have multiple functions, like acting as warehouses to make on-demand work at scale. Then there’s the question of having enough properly trained employees to manage the orders.

The way retail is progressing, it looks like brick and mortar will be the future of retail as stores become mini warehouses. This selling channel will need to become more flexible to keep up with demanding and changing customer expectations.

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American Apparel has been through a lot recently, such as filing for and legally being allowed to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A formal partnership with on-demand delivery company, Postmates, could be just what they needed. Postmates will offer one hour delivery of American Apparel basics in 31 areas across the U.S, sourcing products from 79 stores. This solidifies their place in the omnichannel and on-demand retail reality, offering a branded experience that Amazon can’t match.

On the other hand, Amazon offers same day delivery in 16 U.S. cities and one to two hour delivery in a select few. They have certainly set the bar high, but with the help of third party delivery services, retailers like American Apparel have a way to keep up. If the same day and on-demand trends continue to gain traction, brick and mortar stores will be the main asset retailers have to satisfy instant gratification. Partnering with third party delivery services could be the driving force that helps smaller retailers stand a chance against Amazon by beating them to the sale and growing customer satisfaction.

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Angelica Valentine

Angelica Valentine is the Content Marketing Manager at Wiser, a dynamic pricing and merchandising engine for online retailers, and a contributor to VentureBeat, Business Insider, The Future of Commerce, and more. She holds a BA from Barnard College of Columbia University.