For centuries, retail was a single-channel experience. Our predecessors purchased their goods from a single brick and mortar store, and that served their needs.
As technology evolved, so did our needs. We needed more channels to access more goods at our convenience. This caused retail to become a multichannel experience. Right now, we are watching that multichannel model give way to the omnichannel experience.
As retailers integrate their channels, they are allowing their physical shopfronts to shut down at an alarming rate. In Australia alone, major brick and mortar outlets are closing while online sales are soaring.
But why should retailers abandon brick and mortar? If handled correctly, a physical storefront can enhance the online shopping experience. Below are three reasons why retailers should bring their offline experience into the age of Brick and Mortar 2.0.
Human contact appeals to us on a basic level. Despite online retailers adopting conversational AI, this appeal can only be authentically provided through a brick-and-mortar outlet. Along with appealing to us on a basic level, brick-and-mortar staff can start conversations with customers. This can steer them towards online services and sign-ups. It can also keep them in the store long after they could have clicked another tab.
As well as engaging with other humans, physical stores allow us to engage with the products we’re interested in. After all, statistics show 85% of shoppers prefer to make purchases in person. This is thanks to the security of seeing merchandise up close before making a decision.
If online retailers cannot provide this sense of security through a physical storefront, they must provide a dependable return policy.
As online shopping enters Industry 4.0, advanced business analytics ensure that shoppers are presented only with heavily filtered results. This can obstruct organic discovery, which enables customers to discover delightful new products they may not have found online.
With a shop-front in your customer’s own neighborhood, you can ensure your brand won’t be buried under filters and search rankings. Otherwise, you must optimize your SEO and search filtering with a smart content management system.
Just as technology has enabled real-time customer profiling for online retailers, so too has it improved offline customer profiling. In fact, many leading retailers recognize that they can capture unique data in their brick-and-mortar stores. American homeware retailer Crate & Barrel found that in-store engagement alone increased their email signups by over 15%.
In addition, advances in facial recognition and machine learning can enable brands to track customer emotions in store. By combining customer emotions with the power of Predictive Analytics, the possibilities are endless.
While retailers must pay attention to their digital experience, it is important to augment their brand through offline spaces. After all, it is difficult to retain retail customers in an omnichannel world.
For more on this topic, see Unified Commerce Ends The Online Vs. Brick-And-Mortar War.