In the age where eCommerce is accessible everywhere, where does brick-and-mortar fit in? Probably in the same place where it stands proud.
Amid the ongoing trumpeting of retailpocalypse and better delivery options, your typical, tried & tested and true mom-and-pop shop retains its foothold in the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar stores continue to thrive, growing slower than eCommerce sites but still are in the green when it comes to revenue.
To be fair, physical retail stores are a tried and tested formula already. People are going to want to look at the merchandise first before buying it; that’s possible in brick-and-mortar stores. To add salt to the wounds, some eCommerce sites, such as Amazon, have been seen opening physical locations.
Why does brick-and-mortar still stand? More importantly, in the age where you can get almost anything delivered to your doorstep, what makes some people visit physical stores?
A Compelling and Inviting Atmosphere
Compare how organically you find an online store to a physical one. When online, you use your go-to search engine to find the website and browse until you drop. Aesthetic-wise, it’s all two-dimensional like an interactive catalog. Online stores, no matter how loud or minimalistic they look, create a transactional experience.
On the other hand, a physical store is a whole-body affair. Some buildings may have been commissioned and optimized to look inviting and feel comforting. Each product is arranged in a way that people may veer their eyes into them. A top-tier mom-and-pop will have the mom or the pop help you with your purchase—depending on whether you need help or not. Ask them something and they might surprise you.
In short, there’s an obvious gap between the customer experience brick-and-mortar stores provide over the ones eCommerce sites deliver.
Design with the Times
While eCommerce sites disrupted, brick-and-mortar stores adapted.
With the customer experience in mind, entrepreneurs need to go beyond the idea that physical stores are more than just a warehouse of goods where people can come, buy and go—a “glorified shelf for their products” as Zen Media CEO Shama Hyder put it.
Successful physical stores are more than just trying to take care of someone’s pain point. Here, it’s high touch meets high tech. If you’re a physical retailer, you need to give value beyond to just providing merchandise, says Apple store designer Ron Johnson.
That said, the physical and online experience needs to be fused and melded. Typically, both sides of retail are separate, like buying something from their website priced at $20 but is on sale in a branch at $15. The customer experience must be seamless from online to physical or vice versa.
Digital-to-physical integration can become a competitive advantage if you design your strategy around it. Combine what makes physical stores great and what makes eCommerce shine and you got yourself a home run.
Brick and Mortar is Here to Stay
Businesses come and go. What once was a pizza restaurant may be a convenience store now. Or a flea market. But there’s nothing that can replace the novelty and the advantage of your typical mom-and-pop store. When you remove technology from the equation, you’ll see how the best stores bring out the best out of their merchandise. They make people welcome in their store and they leave happy. As long as it evolves with the times, brick-and-mortar businesses won’t be shaken down.