Published On: 03/18/2014

I Stock _000035888298SmallYou might say the retail game finally reached a tipping point when Warby Parker, the online-born fashion eyewear company, opened its first of several physical showrooms. This reversal in the retail model - moving from online to in-store, rather than the other way around - raises a core question about today's digitally savvy shopper habitswhat is the point of physical retail?

The most obvious point of physical retail is to sell products. And, for the most part, bricks-and-mortar stores do a great job of moving product and making money. In 2013, retail ecommerce only made up about 7% of all retail commerce in the US, per the Department of Commerce. Kantar Retail analysts predict this number will double to 14% by 2020, a significant increase, but still substantially less that retailers sell in physical stores.

Yet, while ecommerce isn't projected to reach majority share of shopper wallets in the near future, the online shopping experience has already won a considerably large share of shoppers' time sent using their devices. For example, Kantar data tells us the following:

  • 23% of all shoppers use their mobile device to access a retailer's website, an activity that ranks fourth in penetration behind using social network sites (35%), social networking apps (32%) and game apps (23%).
  • 17% of all shoppers have used a retailer's app this year - that's more than doubled since 2012, when only 7% did the same.
  • became the most-shopped​ retailer during the 2013 holiday season (55% penetration), stealing share from major "traditional" retailers like Target, Toys "R"Us and Best Buy.
Plus, while 2013 holiday spending remained flat, the amount spent buying gifts online actually rose from $280 in 2012 to $288.
Kantar Digital analyst Bryan Gildenberg was interviewed by BBC to discuss the marketing implications of the changing shopping dynamics. Gildenberg asserts that many traditional retailers today have done somewhat of a good job becoming "multi-channel" in their attempt to begin capturing online shoppers. However, he says, "multi-channel" is no longer a significant differentiator. The best retailers are now "omni-channel" and have connected every possible shopper touch point.