Forget what people have been saying for years: brick-and-mortar isn't dead. It's telling when online giants, such as Amazon, have decided to open more brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, a 2016 PwC report says that physical stores are "operating from a position of strength."
Many retail customers show a preference for in-store purchases over online shopping. For instance, 59% of customers would rather buy their household appliances in person and the same goes for 62% of customers looking to purchase furniture and homeware.
How can online-only businesses plant their flags in the real world while maintaining personalized shopping experiences? Consider these three options.
1. Start with a pop-up store
E-commerce businesses can take their first step into offline retail by setting up low-risk, high-impact pop-up stores. These are small shops with short leases—anywhere from a few days to a few months—that serve as temporary bases for brands in locations with high foot traffic, like airports or shopping malls. The real-life visibility of a pop-up store gives customers the opportunity to interact with a brand face-to-face, and allows a brand to build more awareness of their offerings.
Real-life example: Eyewear retailer Warby Parker saw the value of this offline approach; they set up pop-up stores across the country in order to reach customers who preferred to make their purchases in-person. These shops also allowed customers to try on glasses in-store and then make an online purchase later, creating a seamless shopping experience.
Retail tip: With a pop-up store, inventory can be a real problem. The shop is only going to exist in one location for a brief while before moving on to the next site—having leftover unsold goods defeats the point of mobile flexibility. Plus, the small square footage means there's only room for limited stock. Pop-up stores can bypass these constraints by offering a drop ship and endless aisle solution that leave extensive inventory storage to the manufacturer without restricting sales.
2. Install digital signage
A brick-and-mortar store doesn't have to be boring. With digital signage, it can excite and appeal customers. As a 2015 Nielsen study found, digital billboards generated high recall for ads and positive consumer attitudes.
Customers want information that will help them make purchases and connect with brands. The benefit of screens and other forms of digital signage is that they can show animated info about promotions, discounts, and in-store events—this material can even be targeted to different audiences at different times.
Real-life example: For cosmetics retailer Birchbox, they decided to use digital signage that aligned with their offerings. In their brick-and-mortar store, they installed screens that played video tutorials so customers could learn handy grooming tricks.
Retail tip: Install digital signage in spots where patrons might be idling, such as in waiting areas or checkout lines. While waiting, your customers can learn more about what your brand has to offer, which can help inform their next in-store visit.
3. Personalize the customer experience
Big data algorithms tailor online experiences to specific customers by tracking online behavior—including what an individual looked at and what they purchased on the site. Customers have increasing expectations for this level of personalization in the physical world as well. The more a company can learn about their offline market, the better they can serve their customers in-person.
Real-life example: Indochino, the men's suit retailer, knows that a hands-on experience is important for clothes shopping. When they set up their brick-and-mortar shop, they provided in-store fittings—not only did this help customers find the best fit, but it also allowed Indochino to gain clear insight into their local market so they could tailor their services according to their customers' needs.
Retail tip: Many retailers already track their customers' proximity to their brick-and-mortar stores, and send nearby shoppers enticing discounts for in-store purchases. With a powerful POS system in place, you can take your strategy to the next level by monitoring region-based trends among your store locations, which can help you improve your targeted offers to customers.
Bringing e-commerce and in-store experiences together
E-commerce businesses looking to make the jump into the offline world can think of the two realms as complementary, or even integrated—that's the omnichannel approach. By adding offline tactics to their efforts, online retailers can build their e-commerce sales as they expand their brand presence with a brick-and-mortar setup.
Going from clicks to bricks? Explore the benefits of five of the most popular models for physical stores in our below whitepaper titled, Digital-to-Physical Playbook For E-Commerce Brands.
Feature Photo: zhu difeng / Shutterstock.com