What Do You See as the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Stores vs. Online Retail in 2019?

We’ve been seeing a steady shift in retail, away from brick-and-mortar stores, to online shopping. But recently it seems to be making a quicker shift. Autonomous vehicles and drones are being considered for deliveries, Amazon is setting up cashier-less stores, and most food stores now have some type of shopper service/delivery.

What do you see as the future of brick-and-mortar stores vs. online retail in 2019?

Phil sees that future as “pretty bleak, at least in the short term.” He believes many stores will morph into warehouses with a walk-in business as well. If you’re local, you walk in, and if you’re not, they’ll ship your purchases to you. “It’s the way most businesses survive in the face of new models.” And they’ll adopt new models sooner rather than later if they’re smart.

He adds that MP3s killed the brick-and-mortar model of music distribution. Blogs killed magazines. Desktop publishing killed manual pasteup and typesetters. E-cigs, he believes, will eventually kill conventional manual tobacco consumption. He believes if Darwin were on social media, he would say, “It’s survival of the fittest.”

Andrew recognizes that the trend is clearly moving towards online shopping, but he’s always surprised to see that with the market share, e-commerce is only 10% of overall sales in the U.S.

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He still sees brick-and-mortar as a big part of retail, but in the future, he thinks some industries will fare better than others. He sees grocery shopping as an in-person activity still, but books and other media “have already taken a huge dive in physical retail space,” followed by other products.

He doesn’t think anything will happen in 2019 and believes it will be a significant part of some markets even thirty or forty years from now, but “e-commerce is unquestionably going to shut down big physical chunks of any industries that can feasibly go online.”

Looking at the fact that 95% of sales take place in physical locations, Alex isn’t sure brick-and-mortar stores are going away any time soon. Even if Amazon can reliably offer delivery faster than pizza, he still sees the need for brick-and-mortar stores, as “people want to touch stuff, try things on, see it in person, compare with other objects.”

He doesn’t see it as generational either, as young people do it the same as older people. “There’s a deep mammalian need to go out and gather the things we need, and brick-and-mortar stores provide us with that.” He realizes it could be the limits of his culture paradigm, “but a world without physical stores seems as likely as an elevator to Mars.”

Sayak believes that the people who live in big cities need a place to unwind, and malls, supermarkets, and shopping plazas fill the void. He sees the existence of malls for socialization now rather than shopping and doesn’t believe it will slow down soon because of big city populations.

Yet, e-commerce sites are becoming quite popular as well, especially food delivery and grocery apps. He thinks they’ll co-exist side-by-side with brick-and-mortar stores for a long time, “until drone deliveries become more mainstream.” He doesn’t believe e-commerce will totally replace physical stores either, because of a “self-gratification of evaluating merchandise yourself.”

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Kenneth believes that “in a future where everything is going digital” that the market share for online retail will “increase exponentially.” He still thinks brick-and-mortar stores will dominate, though, because “most people are averse to online shopping due to the ever-increasing online scams, financial fraud, and privacy concerns.”

Ryan explains his girlfriend nearly exclusively buys all her clothes online. She tries them on after they’re delivered, and if they don’t fit, she packages them up and sends them back. It seems crazy to him, “especially since we live in a city and can access the brick-and-mortar stores she buys from fairly easily.” He then suggests maybe she’s living in 3018 and the rest of us 2018.

I think Ryan hit on the difference here. As I read all these responses to this question, I was feeling like the odd one out, but not just me – my sister, mom, and daughter as well. Yet my husband only rarely shops online, only when what he desires can only be found online.

So maybe this is a gender thing and not an age thing. I’ll add my mom is nearly homebound at this point, so for her it’s a necessity, but what a great time for it to be a necessity. Every single food store in our area offers delivery. Most of the major retail stores can be found online. But I’m very able-bodied. I only buy groceries and drug store items at brick-and-mortar stores. My sister buys clothing and accessories from a major department store online and has them gift-wrapped for free, for herself, because she can.

Is this generational? Is it a battle of the sexes? Will we always have a need for brick-and-mortar stores? Will drone and autonomous vehicle deliveries play a part? What do you see as the future of brick-and-mortar stores vs. online retail in 2019? Join our conversation in the comments section below.

5 comments

  1. IMNSHO, brick-and-mortar stores selling items that do not need to be sized (books,etc.) or examined (food, etc.) before purchase will eventually dwindle down to a few.

    My wife and daughters buy a lot of items online based on the pictures and descriptions. When the stuff arrives and they do not like it or it does not fit, they either return it to a brick-and-mortar store or they ship it back to whoever they got it from. AFAIAC, that is inefficient and a lot of trouble. I prefer to touch,feel, examine and/or try on the items before I purchase them. I will never buy groceries online unless it is something that is unperishable such as Twinkies or fruit cake.

    My wife worked for a shop-from-home service of a supermarket chain so I am somewhat familiar with the manner in which the online orders are filled and delivered. Let’s just say that neither the “personal shoppers” nor the delivery drivers are as picky and as careful with the groceries as we would be if we were shooping for ourselves.

    • I’ll agree with you regarding the grocery store deliveries. As I said, my mom being homebound for the mos tpart, she has been using Peapod here and there, and doing it with more frequency. She never gets 100% of what she asks for, and they make really weird substitutions, especially with regards to produce. Personally, I’d love to give up grocery shopping at a brick-and-mortar, but I like looking at the options, sales, marked down items, condition of produce/meet, etc.

      P.S. If your wife and daughters shop for clothing online, have them check out Poshmark. I haven’t paid full price for clothing or accessories in a brick-and-mortar since I found that app.

      • As I said, I would never shop for groceries online. You never know what quality of product you are going to get when a disinterested person does the choosing.

        The procedure at the store my wife worked for was to call the customer and inform him/her that certain items are not going included in the order because they are not presently in stock. The customer was also called to approve any substitutions before they were made.

  2. Following the maxim of “If you’re a hammer, the entire world looks like a nail”, or more likely “Monkey see, monkey do”, all kinds of businesses/industries are rushing willy-nilly to switch from brick-and-mortar to online without regards to whether it is advisable or not. Ostensibly, going online much of the staff expense by eliminating much of the staff, and eliminating the costs of infrastructure. Only time will tell whether those costs are not replaced different, as of yet unknown, costs. In any case, I would not invest in shopping mall and shopping center developers from now on.

  3. I sure hope LOTS of businesses “rush” to make online stores that are more friendly and accessible.

    My folks and I do less and less driving every year, with several of us not driving at all. As the county bus service is also becoming less each year, we have done more and more of our shopping online.

    You will all experience something like this as you age, so it’s probably a good idea to invest the time and care now to make online shopping as good as possible for as many as possible as soon as possible.

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