In 2017, e-commerce once again broke a number of online records in Belgium – yet we still see that more than 90% of all purchases of physical products are made offline. Traditional retail stores therefore continue to play an important role for Belgian consumers.
The traditional retailers are losing touch with the so-called Leading Edge Consumers, for whom the benefits of online shopping are often more important. This group of consumers displays typical shopping behaviour that will be adopted in the future by the average consumer. The Belgian retail sector can prepare for that future by focusing on the benefits of offline shopping, on integrating those online benefits into traditional stores, and on effective pricing strategies.
Online shopping is growing, but offline remains the most important channel
The Belgian e-commerce industry is heading for yet another record year. There are no official figures yet, but during the third quarter of 2017 we were already able to observe that 8.7% of the average Belgian’s spending on product purchases took place online. When it comes to buying services, we can see that 63.9% of purchases were made online.
Three quarters of Belgian consumers believe that traditional stores will continue to play an important role in the future. The future of retail lies in a phygital model. This refers to a retail environment in which physical and digital experiences merge together seamlessly and complement each other in order to offer the consumer a single, positive, integrated experience across different channels. We can already see this happening today, as 15% of Belgian consumers opt for click-and-collect applications – and that number is only increasing.
Stay focused on offline benefits
Offline shopping remains important for a large number of Belgian consumers and families. The main benefit of offline shopping remains its tangible aspect. For 6 out of 10 Belgians, the main reason for shopping offline is the ability to see or touch a product before buying it. This makes it very important for the retailer of the future to provide enough space in the offline shop for customers to look at, feel and try out products.
Activate online benefits in an offline environment
Nowadays, consumers are already introducing a phygital experience into traditional stores by using their smartphone. 36% of Belgians use their phones to search for more information about a potential purchase, and 16% search for online reviews while they are in the store. These elements are increasingly available on digital screens or at online kiosks inside traditional stores.
Pricing is also an important driver for online shopping. A clear and integrated pricing strategy that provides customers with information about prices – ideally with a sufficient level of openness – is therefore essential to a positive phygital retail experience.
Finally, 22% of Belgians indicate that they prefer to shop online as they can access a better or more extensive range of products. In-store kiosks or shop staff with access to a digital inventory system may also bring added value to traditional offline stores in this respect.
- FutureBuy, an online survey of 1.000 Belgians carried out by GfK Belgium (July 2017)
- BeCommerce Market Monitor, a Belgian e-commerce monitor by BeCommerce