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Brick and Mortar Vs. Online: The Winning Retail Customer Experience Strategy

By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer

Since the rise of Amazon, retailers have been faced with the ongoing challenge of competing with the online marketplace. Between nationwide store closings and major layoffs in retail, it’s not surprising to think that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have a challenging future in an increasingly digital world. However, in a saturated online marketplace, going fully digital may not necessarily be the answer. It may come down to companies to rely on brick-and-mortar stores and online retail working together to create the ultimate customer experience.

Benefits of Brick and Mortar Stores

Brick and mortar shoppers may not be who you think they are, meaning they’re not limited to baby boomers and Gen X. In fact, research from the National Retail Federation found that 98 percent of Gen Z prefer brick-and-mortar shopping.

There’s a reason that consumers of all ages prefer to shop at brick-and-mortar stores over online retailers. According to the Retail Dive Consumer Survey, the ability to see, touch, and feel products is one of the top reasons consumers choose to shop in stores versus online. Shoppers also like being able to ask store associates questions and enjoy the in-store experience. Historically, these are all areas that ecommerce brands have not been able to compete with.

Why Brick and Mortar Stores are Struggling

Despite the benefits of brick-and-mortar stores, there’s a reason many retailers are closing up shop. According to Retail Dive, the problem may be that while more than 56 percent of consumers might go to the physical store to ask associates questions and touch, hold, and try the items, they’ll still make the actual purchase online. For example, a consumer might to Macy’s to try on a Michael Kors watch, but then go home and buy the watch on the Michael Kors website or shop around online for the best price. Macy’s bore the cost of showing it to the consumer but reaped none of the reward. 

The Saturated Ecommerce Market

Ecommerce has been on the rise for years, with online sales representing more than half of all retail sales growth last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Between internet startups and historically brick-and-mortar shops making the transition to digital, it seems like everyone wants some skin in the ecommerce game. As a result, ecommerce businesses are struggling to stand out in a saturated online marketplace. With the rising cost of online advertising, it’s no wonder more than 90 percent of all internet business start-ups end in failure within the first 120 days. Not to mention, customers still want to physically experience your products before buying them.

The Future of Retail

The future of retail isn’t the death of the brick-and-mortar store or a complete ecommerce takeover. Rather, it’s the combination of brick-and-mortar and ecommerce working together to create the ultimate customer experience.

Brick and Mortar Goes Digital

Brick and mortar shops are increasingly expanding to the online marketplace in order to provide shoppers with the option to buy online, either through their own website or a third-party site. Amazon, for example, created a section on their platform dedicated to small and mid-size businesses called Amazon Storefronts. These storefronts offer a personal touch and a personal story that translates into more than just items being sold. It also allows online shoppers to get the “mom and pop experience” they want, albeit virtual, through an online retailer. 

Ecommerce Turns to Brick and Mortar

On the flip side, ecommerce brands are seeking ways to give online shoppers the ability to touch, feel, and try products and interact with associates. B8ta, for example, offers internet-native brands the option to rent space in their physical stores, then keep all of what they make. This way, shoppers can still reap the benefits of brick and mortar stores, while the retailers can still turn a profit. Compared with the cost of finding new customers through expensive online advertising, the Wall Street Journal says paying someone to put your goods on the shelf in an actual store might be an attractive solution.

Evaluate Your Retail Customer Experience

With the proper strategy, both brick and mortar and online retailers can ensure a strong position in the consumer market and offer experiences outside the reach of their primary storefronts.

At IntelliShop, we understand what it takes to create exceptional retail customer experiences. Our mystery shopping solutions are designed to give you an honest, in-depth look at your business through the eyes of your customers that can evaluate your associates, merchandising, and overall customer experience from arrival to checkout and beyond. We’ll then present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report to create a strategy that focuses on improving your retail customer experience. Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.