If I had a dime for every time I heard the question “Isn’t eCommerce taking over retail?”, it wouldn’t make me wealthy, but I’d certainly have a few hundred dollars more than I do now. Nonetheless, it’s a question that is unfortunately misguided and has permeated our zeitgeist. The truth is that yes, eCommerce is growing - but physical retail is far from doomed. Let me take the two parts of that last sentence and address them each separately.
First, the fact that eCommerce is growing. Forrester just released the latest five-year online retail forecast and to no one’s surprise, the numbers are big. We’re projecting $294B in eCommerce sales across 30 retail categories in 2014, expected to grow to $414B by 2018. The web keeps doing what it has always done well: it provides huge assortments of products, at comparable, often lower, prices than physical stores, with 24/7 access and often free shipping. For many categories like media products or electronics, we’ve already observed a heavy shift to the web channel away from physical stores. Add to that the ubiquity of mobile devices and that drives even more shopping in more instances and places. In fact, we’re projecting that $87B of that $294B will happen on phones and tablets in 2014, and that doesn’t even include another $28B in additional mobile transactions on sites and apps like Uber and Domino’s Pizza that aren’t even in that aforementioned mobile commerce number.
But all this growth certainly doesn’t mean that stores are dying. Here’s why:
The first email I received at work in 2014 was from a bank; along with a festive new year’s greeting, the email touted the bank’s new mobile app and a new feature that let customers set up travel notifications directly from the bank’s website. Later that day, I was in an airport reading a friend’s Facebook post about how she wished “more apps were like Uber.”
These are just a few small anecdotes about ongoing digital trends impacting businesses and banks both large and small. I recently spoke with a banking executive who put it simply: “Digital is what we do now.” (This quote is now the header of my Twitter feed.)
Forrester recently published our Trends 2014: North American Digital Banking report, in which we identify major forces impacting banks and lay out five actions that we recommend digital strategists take to prepare for the future of digital banking. Here’s a sample of some of our findings:
Banks will face a sustained – yet unclear – regulatory environment. In both the US and Canada, banks are confronting an uncertain regulatory future. The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into US law on July 21, 2010, but a large number of the rules and regulations remain unwritten. It's unclear when they'll be finalized, and the fact that 47% of deadlines have already been missed – according to the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell – doesn't bode well.
Have you ever stopped to think where your last online order came from and how it got to your house? We might assume that the package on our doorstep has probably just made a lengthy and complex journey across the country (courtesy of the belly of a UPS freighter, a handful of trucks, a few miles of conveyor belts and some good old human muscle) from a large, nondescript distribution center located in the suburbs of a city we've barely heard of. You may be surprised to learn then, that today it is increasingly likely that the package at your door came no further than a few miles down the road from a locally based store of the retailer you ordered online from. Of course, as consumers, we don’t really care where our purchases came from or how they found their way to our doorstep - as long the right merchandise arrives damage-free and on time.