eCommerce vs. Retail: Pros and Cons

Lilla Stefanovszky
Lilla Stefanovszky

In this article, we will compare eCommerce vs. retail through their pros and cons. But first, let’s see how shopping evolved over time and what eCommerce and retail actually mean. For as long as humanity existed we were trading, exchanging, and consuming resources and goods. First, it started with bartering goods or services for other goods and services. Then it eventually evolved to using currencies as means of payment. The first use of currency is dating back to around 3000 BC in Mesopotamia.

The first markets have been established in ancient Greece around 800 BC. This was when people came together to trade in the Agora. Agora, which was located in the center of the city, was not only serving as market places. They also served as a meeting ground for various activities for the citizens. This helped to establish the social aspect of shopping.

However, shopping has been a part of people’s lives for thousands of years, it grew and evolved significantly over time. Fast forward to this day, the biggest dilemma is driven by the advancements of technology that have its effect on all aspects of our lives. In order to be able to predict future possibilities and means of selling in the future, it is vital to understand the basic definitions of retail.

Defining eCommerce vs. Retail

Both eCommerce and retail refer to the exchange of goods and services to currency. In other words, the action of these being sold to the customers. The only difference is that eCommerce is done exclusively through the internet. On the other hand, retail can be done in many different ways. We refer to brick-and-mortar, in-person, catalog, direct mail, and even online sales as retail.

Most of the businesses are falling somewhere between brick-and-mortar retail and eCommerce as they mainly use a mix of these selling strategies. Even though eCommerce is on a rise now and we can see more and more businesses tap into this, it does not mean that brick-and-mortar would be obsolete at all. The traditional shopping experience and retail are likely here to stay in the future as well.

How technology changed the way we shop

Going online

With new and emerging technologies such as the internet, online stores, online ads, cloud-based software, and so on the way we shop has changed significantly. Nowadays, shoppers are widely informed about the products they are buying and able to make well-thought-out decisions. They can read reviews, compare prices, find the nearest stores and get information about all retailers out there. If you would like to further understand how customers seeing information on your and your competitors’ products, read our article on price comparison. With all these at their fingertips, it changed hugely how people are locating and purchasing the items they desire.

online shopping

To be able to quantify this technology-led change, we need to look at the share of eCommerce in total retail. In 2015 eCommerce only accounted for 7.4% of all the purchases made in retail. Four years later, in 2019, this number almost doubled and reached 14.1%, 3.5 trillion US$. With the increasing digital development of the Asia Pacific region, it is not surprising that the fastest-growing online markets were India, followed by Spain and China. By 2023, analysts expect that the share of eCommerce could even reach 22%. This is not only a result of technological advancements but also the pandemic that forced people to stay and shop from their homes.

The power of mobile devices

When it comes to technology, we also need to talk about the ever-growing importance of mobile devices. Mobile devices brought the internet to even a larger demographic, that we call mobile-first online communities. These traditionally have struggled with the fixed broadband concept due to financial or infrastructural reasons. Although, now they can enjoy the benefits of relatively cheap mobile broadband connections. The average basket value of purchases done on mobile devices is still lacking behind the ones placed on laptops or desktop computers. But at the same time, it is one of the priorities of online retailers to catch up with mobile eCommerce sales.

Different characteristics eCommerce vs. retail

In order to be able to compare eCommerce vs. retail shopping, we need a great understanding of the shopping experience. This will be vastly different whichever platform you decide on using. Let’s go through the major differences in terms of shopping experience together.

Interacting with the product

While in traditional brick-and-mortar stores the consumers are in physical interaction with the product and can assess its qualities first handed, eCommerce stores have a bigger challenge. This challenge can be bridged by the best possible presentation of the given product. Stores can and encouraged to use great quality images, 360 views of the product, or virtual try-on. These techniques are not cheap to implement but at least one of them is necessary for your audience to get an interactive and appropriate representation of the products you are selling.

In store shopping experience

The time between purchasing and obtaining a product

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of purchasing in brick-and-mortar stores is that the consumer is able to obtain the product immediately. This gives them the after-purchase gratification right away. For this reason, people tend to value traditional retail over eCommerce when they want or need to purchase something immediately. Also, shipping costs are unknown, so when buying a certain product, your customers only need to pay the price stated with no extra costs. When it comes to eCommerce, it always takes some time until you can get your hands on the purchased product. Although, some eCommerce retailers are on the mission of championing speedy home delivery.

The shopping timeframe

By their nature, brick-and-mortar stores can only offer their goods and services within their opening hours. This is limiting the timeframe your consumers can purchase from you and can cause in potential loss of sales. When it comes to eCommerce stores, they do not have opening hours that make their products and services available at any time. This allows consumers to browse and purchase whenever it is the most convenient for them.

shopping online for clothing

Customer service

There are great customer service options and alternatives available for both online and offline retailers. In the case of brick-and-mortar stores, customers are able to speak to personnel on the spot and in person. This can help them make an informed decision and potentially eliminate post-purchase issues. As for online retailers, apart from their FAQs page many of them offer real-time customer service through helplines or online chat. If they are not available at the moment you browse or wish to purchase a product, you can find chatbots on many sites that also can help you with your decision-making.

Traveling to shop

When we look at the eCommerce vs. retail comparison, we can see that one of the key differences between the two is the need of travelling to shop. In the case of brick-and-mortar stores, it is vital that the consumer goes to the store and purchases the product in person. Unfortunately, not everyone would have the means and the time to visit stores during their opening hours. In contrast, with eCommerce retailers, you can shop any time from the convenience of your own home. You only need a computer or a mobile device and you are free to browse and purchase any time that fits you the best.

Personal contact

Prior to 2020 we never thought that this aspect will also claim its place on our list. Unfortunately, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the number of personal contacts became an important factor in our everyday life. It is still recommended to keep these at the minimum, especially if the trip is not essential. As brick-and-mortar stores require the presence of the consumer to make a purchase, they can expose shoppers to a higher number of contacts than eCommerce retailers. Whereas if you decide to purchase online, you will likely only interact with delivery personnel in person. Also, many courier companies now offer contactless delivery options as well, which might be the safest considering the circumstances.

Finding the product you are looking for

When comparing eCommerce vs. retail, the time to find products in both stores is important for consumers. With traditional retail services, it can be more difficult to locate an item. Even more so if the establishment is spacious and offers multiple product categories. On the other hand, most eCommerce sites are equipped with advanced search services. This way, you can just easily type in the product you need into the search bar and see the applicable products appearing in split seconds.

ecommerce makes shopping easier

Overall time spent shopping

The goal of brick-and-mortar stores is to keep a customer for as long as possible inside the store. This is proven to be a well-working sales technique. As customers pass by other items when looking for what they initially came for. This way there is a chance that they will stop and have a look or even purchase the product is higher. In comparison, eCommerce stores operate with different cross-selling techniques. For this reason, you will only have to spend the time on their site that you actually need to purchase the product you came for. In this aspect, this makes eCommerce stores a quicker and more efficient option.

To sum up the eCommerce vs. retail dilemma

As you can see there is no one best way to go when you are starting up your own business. It is not about choosing either eCommerce or retail, but rather doing both at the same time. This way you would be able to ensure that you are not losing business for any of the above-mentioned reasons.

Get started in the eCommerce or retail industry with BrandsGateway

If you are thinking about starting a business in the fashion industry, BrandsGateway is the supplier you would want to partner with. Regardless if you have a brick-and-mortar or an eCommerce store, BrandsGateway got you covered. It’s a luxury branded clothing distributor that links you with world-class manufacturers. All styles are proven to be 100% authentic so you can confidently offer them to your customers. You can select from over 100 luxury brands from its offering to make sure you have the most appealing range for your customers. These brands include great selling ones such as Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, Dsquared2, Prada, and many more.

When partnering with BrandsGateway, you have to services to choose from. One is purchasing wholesale clothing and the other is becoming a dropshipping partner. Read further to get to know the benefits of each and to be able to make the best decision for your business.

Wholesale B2B clothing and accessories

BrandsGateway is one of the world’s top-rated luxury fashion wholesale marketplaces. You can browse and purchase from over 15 000 styles that are in stock at a given time. Even within purchasing wholesale clothing online from BrandsGateway, you have two options you can go for.

You have either the option to pick and mix the styles you wish to offer to your customers or you can buy stocklots of pre-selected styles. Whit the minimum order amount being as low as 1000€ or $1200 you do not need to commit to large quantities if you do not wish to. Just handpick your favorites of what you think will sell the best in your niche. Alternatively, you can also buy stocklots which are pre-chosen packages of products from one or sometimes several suppliers. This can also be a great option if you are looking to get higher discounts on merchandise than the pick & mix option.

Once you have picked out the styles you wish to purchase, you can settle the payment through PayPal and Bank Transfer alike. After receiving your payment, BrandsGateway will provide you with a tracking number of your order within two days. The goods are shipped using premium courier services worldwide. The cost of shipping is starting from as low as 15 EUR per order and will reach you within 5 days.

Dropshipping branded clothing and accessories

If you operate an eCommerce store, BrandsGateway dropshipping service could be exactly what you need. With only a few clicks you can register and sign up for a dropshipping subscription and start selling right away. BrandsGateway is providing you with plugins that you can easily integrate into your Shopify or WooCommerce website. This will allow for your orders placed on your website to automatically come through to your supplier – BrandsGateway. Furthermore, with the use of the plugins, the available inventory will sync on your website to minimize the risk of selling unavailable styles. You can expect to offer your customers up to 250 new styles each week as BrandsGateway’s stock is updated with new arrivals weekly.

Also, you can easily track and control your markup for each category. You can earn up to 250% on every order you get due to the beneficial pricing you can source your merchandise at. You will have access to individual items from luxury brands you can offer to your customers. Each will come with a discounted price that can be as low as 90% of the RRP. This will ensure great margins for you without having to buy into the risk of holding stock.

Special benefits for dropshipping partners

The other benefits of becoming a dropshipping partner also include a personal dedicated account manager. Together with your account manager, you can discuss your marketing strategy. This way you not only have more time but more knowledge as well on how to advertise your store. Moreover, you will also receive an honest revision and help on improving your store itself. This can be a huge help to attract as many customers as possible.

If you chose BrandsGateway as your dropshipping supplier you are in for even more benefits and help for your eCommerce shop. You will be offered professional product images that you can use freely. Also, you will receive access to a library of free images predesigned specifically for social media posts. Last but not least, you will also receive a guide for you to follow in your advertising efforts. These professional guides include a guide on “eCommerce SEO” and one on “Facebook Ads“.

Final thoughts

The future of shopping is not about going one way or the other. Having a brick-and-mortar store is a great way to engage with your customers. But on the other hand, eCommerce will soon be inevitable to tap into. The most important thing to keep in mind is no matter how the shopping culture is changing over time, there are some things that will always be important. These include your marketing strategy, customer service, and of course the most importantly choosing the appropriate supplier for your store. If you have a great and reliable supplier by your side from the beginning you will able to focus on growing your business stress-free.

Lilla Stefanovszky

About the Author


Lilla Stefanovszky
Fashion marketing professional turned digital marketer. My name is Lilla and I have been working in the fashion industry for 5 years. Currently working at BrandsGateway and helping with the development of the marketing strategy and on occasions writing articles for our audience. When away form the computer, I enjoy outdoors and running with my dogs.

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