The rise of e-commerce has dramatically altered the competitive landscape of retail; but contrary to popular belief, brick and mortar is evolving and isn’t going away any time soon. Traditional retail is defying the skeptics by supplementing sales with the limitless potential of the internet while e-commerce brands are turning from clicks to bricks as a means to secure their position in the hearts and minds of consumers.
The momentum of omnichannel shopping, a multichannel approach to sales, is not only answering consumer demands but is also a key driver of business for retailers. Picture an engaging brand experience where the physical and the virtual merge seamlessly. Historically online-only retailers like Bonobos, Amazon, Warby Parker, Casper and over 30 others have launched initiatives to grow their physical presence in the United States, extending their virtual presence into brick and mortar locations. By multiplying their square footage, they are going where the people are! While e-commerce can often achieve greater visibility and more initial interest through clicks, brick and mortar stores tend to result in higher conversion rates of sales and overall higher profit margins. Despite the advent of online shopping, people are still spending their money in stores with physical locations.
Here are a few ways brick and mortar stores can evolve in the market against online-only competition:
Join the e-commerce playing field:It's like the expression says, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! E-commerce isn't going anywhere, yet fewer than half of small businesses are using the internet to sell their products. By adding an online channel, small businesses cast a wider net in terms of views, which ultimately helps get more customers in their doors.
Enrich the overall customer experience:Add value beyond providing the merchandise. Lowe's Foods is a great example of how you can get creative to help sell more product. Curious as to how they do it? Check out our post on the Amazon Effect.
Offer local pick-up:Have you ever shopped online and gone to check out, only to realize that shipping would tack on an additional $15 and would take a week before arriving at your doorstop, leading you to abandon your purchase altogether? Save your customers on shipping by offering local pick-up. This will get them in the door of your store, which often leads to additional purchases!
Be helpful:Create a consistent and helpful service-based environment with technology at it’s center. Like the Bonobos example below, customers receiving helpful service in your stores helps your brand in two ways. They both become more comfortable purchasing your items online and they are more likely to return to your physical store in the future.
Make it worth their while:Today's consumers are always on the hunt for a good deal! By matching online prices and even offering lower deals in-store, customers are put at-ease knowing that they aren't missing out on a bargain by coming into your store.
Sync your online and offline efforts:Bake marketing into every part of the retail experience, both online and in store. Sephora is an example of a brand doing a great job of this. If you shop at Sephora online, they promote the beauty services, classes, and events happening in their stores, which helps get their online customers in the physical shops. Similarly, if you are physically shopping at a Sephora store, they have tablets that direct customers to online portals that remember all of their previous purchases and create suggestions for products they might like. By creating this loop, customers receive a better shopping experience and are made aware of all that they have to offer!
In just under ten years, Bonobos, a menswear retailer that was born online, has grown into a 100-million-dollar company with 59 (and counting!) brick and mortar locations around the country. They’ve excelled in the introduction of their brick-and-mortar “Guideshops,” which help in their endeavor to sell a physical product delivered via a digital-first experience. Guideshops create a customer experience that caters to both worlds: customers buying and trying-on clothes in-store and customers placing e-commerce transactions in person right on the retailer’s website with the help of an in-person guide.
This model incorporates #2, #4, and #6 from the suggestions above; and the omnichannel tactic has paid off! The number of in-store orders has doubled that of their online orders, with customers being more likely to repeat transactions and less likely to return products. Additionally, their physical presence has increased the number of new customers utilizing their site.
Retail isn’t dying, it is just changing! Successful brands are changing their sales model to revolve around both a virtual and a physical approach to sales, creating an omnichannel experience. Contrary to what you might hear, it is a very exciting time to be an innovative brick and mortar retailer!
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