Retail is in the midst of a “seismic shift,” Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell told analysts in February. Consumers want and expect “ease and speed” and that’s changing everything, he said. “The shift in channel preference is real and only gaining momentum,” he said.
The numbers bear that out. 79% of U.S. adults have made a purchase online, according to a December Pew Research Center study. And 51% said they’ve made a purchase using a cellphone. That’s a marked shift from 2007, when just 49% of U.S. adults had made a purchase online. As more consumers look for convenient ways to shop, it is putting the onus on retailers like Target that operate stores and sell online to figure out how to meet those expectations or risk getting left behind.
That isn’t easy, it appears. Target’s total sales fell 5.8% last year as its store sales dipped 6.8%, while online sales rose 21.9%. The retailer believes that figuring out how to tie together its online and offline stores to offer convenience not available from web-only retailers is essential to turning around its lagging sales.
Many other store-based retailers face similar challenges, and are adopting a similar omnichannel approach. But whether those efforts pay off, isn’t clear yet.
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