Brick and mortar stores evolved with the advent of the internet, and now internet business models are moving into brick and mortar stores (like Amazon). Is this an evolution or a devolution? How do you see things developing in the future?
Thinking about physical and digital stores as either evolutions of devolutions from each other I think relies on incorrect assumptions and treads into the trap of thinking that technology and society is a constant, linear, forward evolution. Much like how the ebook was not the next evolutionary step of the book to completely replace printing (instead both now coexist), the physical and digital retail exist in different spaces and appeal to different crowds.
Brick and mortar did not evolve with the advent of the internet. Brick and mortars still exist. The digital store evolved out of the internet to run beside the Brick and Mortar.
With that pedantry out of the way, I would answer this question with a big ol’ unmistakably decidedly unquestionably unequivocal: it depends. It depends on the business, on its own mission and its own definitions of growth. It depends on how that business is entering the new market.
For amazon, I would say it’s new store is an evolution on two counts. For its own business model, it is expanding into a new market, it is growing the ways people can shop from amazon as well as what a Prime membership nets you. It is reaching into the physical space to secure more of the overall retail market share. Consider that Amazon’s sole goal is to be the “biggest store in the world.”
As well it is an evolution of physical store spaces in general: this is the first time a physical retail space will be so fully integrated with a digital app, allowing people to just walk in, pick stuff up, and leave, and have their app automatically charge their account.
But it might not always be an evolution to go one way or another. A brick and mortar store might think to evolve into the internet space to tap into another market, but botch it’s online interface so much that it affects the overall brand of the store, causing a possible devolution. Just a thought.
I don’t think the physical store will ever die out. I think, buried somewhere deep in the human psyche, is a persistent and ever-lasting need to experience physical life. Maybe for some that need is gone, but it will forever be somewhere, in some portion of our population, because a human mind is far too complex to have the entire species streamlined into internet shoppers. There will always remain the individual who worships the shelves of a bookstore, or delights in the social interactions of a communal shopping space. Anti-social efficiency won’t take over the population because the population is too variant, and so the physical store will always remain to serve certain psychographics’ needs, and the online store will coexist to serve others.
In reference to our in-class discussion, about how Amazon Go is a long-term investment intended to get people used to the quick, easy, efficient shopping experience to make a regular store like Safeway feel unbearably slow: that will only apply to a certain sector of the population. I will forever maintain that there will be a portion of the population who want, or need, that classic brick and mortar experience of social interaction as part of the shopping process.