The Future of Retailers in the Supplement Space

by Matt Weik

Let’s think for a minute of our buying habits. How many of you actually go to a store these days to make your purchases? Now, how many of you do the majority of your buying online? You might be thinking that there are certain items that you only purchase online while others that you only prefer to purchase in an actual store. There are many factors that come into play with our shopping habits and behaviors. Regardless, will supplement retailers ever be completely pushed to the side by the big bad internet?

Buying Behaviors

According to statistics, 96% of Americans shop online while 65% of them also shop in actual stores. What causes them to skip buying everything online? For starters, not everyone offers free shipping which can often raise the cost to a point where it’s more cost effective to run to the store to pick it up instead (especially if you’re going to be driving right past the store location). Some people simply can’t wait for the delivery and prefer to have the item immediately.

When it comes to supplements, some consumers still prefer to “touch and feel” the product before making a decision. They like the ability to hold the product, look at the label, check the ingredients, and ask the clerk questions regarding the product. Another reason people won’t buy online is due to privacy concerns. While the internet is getting better all the time at protecting your privacy and payment information, there are still occurrences where information becomes compromised.

If an item is easily available at a store where a consumer shops frequently (the grocery store for instance), their buying habits also shift towards retail simply out of convenience. They’re at the store, they know they need to purchase a supplement (such as protein powder or protein bars), and they put it in their shopping cart. No shipping costs, no waiting for delivery, no hassle with returns if the product arrives damaged or is defective.

With all of this said, many consumers who purchase initially in retail will sometimes eventually migrate to e-commerce if the difference in price is significant. While there are loyal consumers, many become more loyal to their bank account and shop wherever will give them the best savings.

Generational Differences

Different generations also have different shopping behaviors. 28% of Seniors shop online. 41% of Baby Boomers shop online. 56% of Generation X shop online. 67% of Millennials shop online.

This, in my opinion, is a technological difference between groups. The younger generations are more familiar with technology and the internet, whereas the older generations to this day still might not own a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This is also represented in how many hours each generation spends online each week. Millennials and Generation X spend the most time online at six hours each week (which personally I think is low), Baby Boomers spend four hours a week online. And Seniors spend on average two and a half hours online each week.

People often joke that Millennials are lazy and inactive and based on the following statistic, it might be hard to argue their point. 43% of shoppers make online purchases while in bed. 67% of those who make purchases online in bed are Millennials.

Why Buy Online?

Online shopping has many perks. For starters, the price of an item is generally less expensive than what you would find in a retailer—this is actually the most important takeaway as 87% of the people surveyed indicated price as a driving factor. There are more times than not, coupon codes for online stores that can be used to give even better discounts when compared to in-store shopping. Shipping is generally speedy (unless you were in dire need and wanted something the same day) as places like Amazon has their Prime membership that allows for 2-day shipping or even next day if you wished to pay extra.

Another key benefit of online shopping is the variety of options. Retailers aren’t able to carry everything under the sun due to their limited shelf space. Online retailers generally carry a much wider selection of products. They also offer loyalty and rewards programs where the more you purchase, the more you can save or get back in credit or freebies.

Will E-commerce Ever Knock Off Retailers?

In my opinion, there will always be room for retailers. While convenience and price are driving factors for online shopping, many people still like to go to their mom and pop supplement stores and make their purchases. It’s about loyalty. And there are still loyal people in this world who appreciate brick and mortar. Many of these retailers have learned to adjust their prices if they want to compete with e-commerce and remain in business. You either evolve and adapt with the times or you die.

Many retailers are also now getting into the social media game. They are talking with their patrons online. They are promoting in-store sales via social media. They are “going live” on Facebook and Instagram. And they are getting in front of buyers who might have never stepped foot in their location. This is a great play for them and one that I feel will help save them in the long run and provide a free marketing platform.

Don’t give up on your local specialty supplement stores. Support your local small businesses.
 

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