Based on the growth of major online retailers over the past few years, you may think that brick and mortar locations are losing market
share purely because people prefer shopping online now.
Despite how it seems, that notion is only partly true. Most people, especially millennials, enjoy shopping in person as much as ever. By the end of 2016, online sales only accounted for 11% or so of total retail shopping. Brick and mortar is still growing as a segment. Even though online sales are outpacing brick and mortar growth, it is an area still ripe for improvement and investment.
Who doesn’t enjoy shopping for products in person? There’s a certain enjoyment that comes from being able to hold different options in your hand and compare features in person before making a purchase, especially when shopping for clothes and electronics.
That incomparable experience of shopping in a physical space is what’s behind the trend of larger online only retailers opening a slate of physical brick and mortar stores across the country. Warby Parker, Microsoft, and even Amazon have opened stores specifically to add to their shopping experience in recent years.
So why are some brick and mortar locations struggling? What is causing some brick and mortar retailers to thrive while others are losing business en-masse to online shopping?
The difference is in HOW people shop today and what they expect from that experience. Shopping from a cell phone or desktop allows consumers to quickly access all the information about a product including comparative offers and specs, instantly allowing them to rest assure they’ve chosen the best product for their money. It’s quick access to data that lets them know they’re paying a fair price for the right product (whatever their motivations for buying happen to be).
The brick and mortar locations that are up-to-date with shopping preferences use information, convenience, or both to improve shopping experiences. For purely online or purely brick and mortar operations, the key to growth is in developing a hybrid model that includes elements of online and brick and mortar. One version of a hybrid model allows customers to shop online then pick up their purchases (bagged and ready to go) at the brick and mortar location. Walmart has already rolled out this model across America.
Other hybrid retail models begin the customer experience at the store, then allow you to continue your shopping experience online. With Warby Parker (originally an online only reading glasses retailer) this means accessing your online profile and purchase preferences in pop-up stores and retail locations so that the store employees can be as helpful as possible in giving you options to try on. Conversely, some people begin their interaction with the brand by window shopping in-store then purchasing online later. The integration of a more traditional shopping experience to an otherwise digitally only model allows customers to consider and try styles they might not have considered otherwise.
The technological hurdles may seem insurmountable if you’re a small retailer or service provider. In reality, highly technical solutions
aren’t necessary to align your business with modern preferences. What has worked and will continue to work in the future is figuring out what your customers are trying to accomplish by visiting your store and removing any obstacle you can in helping them find what they are looking for. It’s not that customers only want to shop online, but exposure to online shopping has given customers the preference for more information and a smoother buying experience. That includes having a lot of information about your product handy and giving customers some sort of assurance they're paying a fair price.
There are plenty of solutions for local businesses that can't implement state of the art technology and who don't have seemingly unlimited marketing funds. Simple solutions like email loyalty programs and online ordering can elevate a small business by offering more data and convenience to customers. In the case of budboard, we offer more data to cannabis dispensary customers via in-store and online menus.
By carefully choosing the data important to your customers, then making it simple to share that data in-store and online, you can fundamentally change your customer experience with a branded ecosystem tailored specifically to your customers and their interests.
Small changes to align your customer facing data really can go a long way. You’d be amazed at how reliably up-to-date information changes customer interactions for the better. Customers are happier with their shopping experience when they know the item they want is in stock before arriving at your store. Once there, having more data about the options they need helps them choose the products they want quickly and makes it easy for them to consider new options. The convenience of personable data can be a game changer for many of today's traditional retailers.
President and Chief Marketing Officer