Traditional and online retailing are increasingly intertwined as customers seamlessly shop between the two platforms and retailers use both to better serve those customers, according to the annual State of Retailing Online study released Thursday (3.14.2018) by the National Retail Federation and Forrester. “This report shows more than ever that retail is retail regardless of where a sale is made or how the product is delivered,” according to Mark Mathews, NRF vice president for research development and industry analysis. “Products ordered online are increasingly picked up in-store or shipped from a nearby store, and digital technology being used at bricks-and-mortar locations lets retailers help customers find what they want or make the sale even if the product is out of stock. Traditional retailers have seen the opportunities of online selling for years now, and those selling online increasingly see that stores are part of the key to success.”

 Highlights of the 2018 survey

  • Net-net, stores are growing: More surveyed retailers say they will be opening stores in 2018 versus closing them. This outlook contrasts with claims that the physical retail world is being displaced by ecommerce and is therefore doomed.
  • Omnichannel remains a key store investment area: Efforts like in-store pickup and endless-aisle investments have been a recurring theme for digital retailers for years, and continue in 2018 as retailers recognize these initiatives are often multiyear endeavors.
  • Digital retail continues to be the bright spot it’s been for years: Retailers continue to experience success in their ecommerce businesses, which have been buoyed by strong mobile commerce performance and improvements in key metrics like conversion rates.



32% | Percentage of companies surveyed that are “pureplay” online retailers
57% |  Bricks-and-mortar retailers who are multichannel, selling both online and through bricks-and-mortar stores

43% | Bricks-and-mortar retailers who expect a net increase in the number of bricks-and-mortar stores they will operate by the end of 2018 (compared to 2017)
16% | Store-based retailers who expect a net decrease in the number of bricks-and-mortar stores they will operate by the end of 2018 (compared to 2017)

24% | Retailers testing new store formats like trying new types of pop-up stores
12% | Retailers who are opening new warehouses or distribution centers (12 percent).

42% | Retailers who say that faster delivery of online orders is their top customer-facing priority
21% | Retailers who say omnichannel services such as buy online, pick up in-store are an in-store priority
15% | Retailers who cite ship-from-store as a fulfillment priority.

”More brands plan to open stores versus close them this year, which proves that the physical retail store is not doomed as many think it is,” according to Sucharita Kodali, Forrester vice president and principal analyst. “Smart retailers understand that the two go hand-in-hand, but customer-obsessed retailers will continue investing in areas like omnichannel to provide customers with the seamless on and offline experiences they expect and now require. This year’s survey proved that while they have work to do in 2018, retailers are moving in the right direction.”

Digital continues to contribute significantly to retail overall, both directly and as it influences sales in stores.

70% | Percent of retailers who say conversion rates – the number of people browsing an item online who actually follow through and make a purchase online – increased in the past year.
62% | Retailers who said repeat customers were up
57% | Retailers who said average order values had increased over prior year

While online sales coming from desktop computers currently double those of mobile browsers, mobile sales are growing faster.

8% | Annual rate of growth in online sales via desktop computers.
16% | Annual rate of growth in online sales via mobile devices.
89% | Percentage of retailers planning to increase investments in mobile initiatives

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