Brick and Mortar Still Matter

Despite all the warnings of a retail apocalypse and store closures, not everyone wants to shop solely online. Bizfeel found that while 57 percent of consumers enjoy shopping online, 31 percent still prefer to go to a physical shop.

In many respects, brick and mortar retail still matters and will continue to do so for years to come. Here’s why.

Online can’t deliver on all customer expectations.

Bizfeel also noted that more than 50 percent of consumers said that online shopping has its drawbacks because they could not touch and try a product before buying it.

Plus, there is less of an experience when shopping online that adds to the overall satisfaction, including missing the immediate gratification of getting the product as soon as it’s bought. An in-store experience also doesn’t involve the risk of product damage, fraud and scams, or delay in delivery.

Brand expansion happens faster through a physical store interaction.

Online brands are still looking to establish a physical presence because they see this channel as a way to build their brand with certain demographics that may still be focusing on physical stores. In one study, it was found that 90 percent of retail sales in North America are still through in-store retail.

These online brands have noted that they can engage with their customers in a more memorable way through a store or even a kiosk or a pop-up location. Even retail giants like Amazon have been experimenting with physical stores plus have invested in physical retail chains like its purchase of Whole Foods.

The pop-up concept stands out.

Pop-up shops are popular, appearing at local outdoor shopping centers within empty retail space as well as set-up outdoors or on urban streets. They are even appearing within well-known department stores. If you have ever seen a pop-up shop, then you’ve also viewed the long lines and crowds that flock to this temporary brick-and-mortar establishment.

This retail format has grown rapidly over the last few years due, in part, for the ability of online retailers to dip their toes into the offline retail environment. Consumers like the newness and exclusivity feel of being the first to try a new brand or product, while brands get to reach potential customers in a fun, memorable, and relatively low-cost way. 

Brands are also using these formats to go beyond selling and leverage the spaces to connect with their audiences on a lifestyle level. For example, Vans opened a space in London for concerts and events and social engagement, while Ministry of Supply offers a co-working space for customers in its stores that have free printers, phone chargers, WiFi, and refreshments.

These experiences have even garnered their own marketing moniker. Known as experiential marketing, these physical spaces are a way to connect with your audience on an individual and personalized level that online channels can’t provide. These physical retail experiences serve as complements to your digital efforts, helping to develop an emotive bond with prospects and customers.

New service delivery methods keep offline retail in the game.

Consumers are realizing the best of both retail channels by using on-demand options to shop and buy online and then pick up in stores at their convenience. Also, they are enjoying alternative service delivery methods by partnering with companies like Instacart, Postmates, and Shipt to have others do their in-store shopping and then get the same-day delivery option to their home or office. In this way, brick-and-mortar locations are doubling as warehouse facilities for these service deliveries.

Address brick-and-mortar relevancy in your operation.

Whether you are an online retailer, offline retailer, or hybrid retailer, you need to continue pursuing some type of brick-and-mortar strategy. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Your audience segments will guide your channel location, development, and investment as some generations and cultures prefer offline more than online while some split their time between both channels. Learn where they want to shop and why.
  • Incorporate technology where appropriate to enhance the retail experience for your customers, including the on-demand ordering and purchase options, in-store mobile information and coupons, and upgraded POS systems for alternative checkout methods with iPads and tablets for your employees.
  • As an online retailer, experiment with the pop-up format or kiosks that provide you with a temporary brick-and-mortar presence to engage directly with customers and add new ones. You’ll be able to give your customers the ability to touch and try products first, buying them at your temporary store or going back online to make the purchase. This also gives you an opportunity to enter different geographic markets to spread brand awareness and build trust quickly.

Stay connected to both worlds.

Brick and mortar matters more so than ever to assist with building trust, spreading brand awareness, and satisfying customer expectations about brand experiences. You’ll need to keep your options open across online and physical stores to address these trends and be ready to shift to one channel or remain present in both as these trends evolve.