Are Brick and Mortar Stores Going Away?
The rise of online retail is one of the most dramatic shifts in the modern economy. This has caused many to ask the question: are brick and mortar stores going away? While there are many advantages to online retail, there are many valuable roles that brick and mortar stores fulfill.
State of Brick and Mortar Stores
There are some indications that brick and mortar stores are going away, as up to 50,000 stores are expected to close across the US in the next few years. Unsurprisingly many retailers rushed to develop their eCommerce options at the beginning of the pandemic. Yet, in their rush, many did not analyze how this would impact the long-term future of their brick and mortar stores and how the two could be effectively integrated.
Even before the onset of the pandemic, many brick and mortar stores were closing. Online retail had been catching up to physical stores, and the pandemic accelerated this process. Additionally, brick and mortar stores face the twin challenges of staffing shortages and customers willing to leave the brand entirely after one bad experience. This requires stores to change how they operate and their culture to meet these challenges of modern retail. Despite the rise of online retail, most customers still shop in stores. Many retailers are investing in opening brick and mortar stores nationwide as they realize the continued value of storefronts.
Advantages of Online Retail
Online retail has three critical advantages over brick and mortar stores that have been leveraged with incredible success.
Online retail has a more diverse and affordable inventory of products sold right out of distribution centers rather than going through a physical store. This advantage is compounded by automated warehouse technology, making the process even easier.
Online retail allows people to safely and efficiently pay for their purchases at home. Furthermore, online purchases are so secure that there is no barrier to completely remote payments.
Easy of Navigation
Finally, online stores are much easier to navigate than brick and mortar stores. Customers can quickly look up what they want without trying to find what they want.
Advantages of Brick and Mortar Stores
One critical niche that brick and mortar stores can fill is offering an engaging and positive customer experience. Consumers are far more likely to purchase from brands with a positive customer experience. This means stores can drive both in-store and online sales by providing an immersive customer experience. Additionally, providing a fantastic customer experience dramatically increases customer retention.
Many customers use brick and mortar stores to investigate a product before purchasing. And despite the convenience of online retail, many customers still prefer to shop in stores.
Brick and mortar stores fulfill most online orders for large retailers. Additionally, many online purchases are returned, and stores allow customers to return them quickly.
Brick and mortar stores can be more convenient than online retail as customers do not have to wait for their purchases to be delivered. More than ever, consumers expect speed when making a purchase. While deliveries have become much faster, there are limits to this convenience due to traffic and some neighborhoods restricting the ability of businesses to conduct deliveries to prevent congestion.
Customers also like receiving insights and advice from knowledgeable store staff about their purchases. This makes the customer feel they are better informed about their purchases.
Solutions for Brick and Mortar Stores
Streamline the Customer Experience
Critical for brick and mortar stores is offering a personalized shopping experience. This is an expectation customers have now that they can have a customized shopping experience online.
Stores must invest in technology that makes their in-store experience as smooth as possible. Some retailers have begun developing apps that direct customers to their purchases and avoid wasting time looking for them. For example, with self-checkouts, store staff can assist customers with their purchases. This enables brick and mortar stores to invest more quickly in the overall customer experience.
In-store apps allow customers to verify in-store inventory to ensure their preferred purchase is in stock. In-store screens can also be installed to allow customers to scroll through the merchandise without walking throughout the store. New technology also allows in-store staff to provide customers with exceptional service that can leave a lasting impression on customers.
Smaller, More Convenient Storefronts
Other retailers have been investing in smaller stores closer to customers rather than a long drive to the mall. This drives up the convenience of brick and mortar stores by having them just around the corner.
Invest in Staff
Another critical component of brick and mortar stores surviving is investing in their employees. With the rise of the gig economy, these workers have more options and flexibility. However, a brick and mortar store will only survive with an effective and happy staff.
Make a Positive Impact
More than ever, consumers want to know that the brands they are dealing with are positively impacting the world. Of course, marketing campaigns can share the positive impact of your business. Still, brick and mortar stores with their staff put a face to your company’s positive image.
By having a wider inventory brick and mortar stores can also provide the variety that is common and very popular with online retail.
Combine Online and In Person Retail
Omnichannel customers are incredibly valuable for businesses as they shop much more than single channel shoppers. As a result, brick and mortar stores need to ensure their service is integrated into mobile and online shopping to make the most of omnichannel shopping. Some brands have even used brick-and-mortar stores to allow customers to try out products before purchasing online.
Tying in-person and online retail in one seamless system allows companies to get creative and stand out from their competition. In addition, combining brick and mortar and online stores will allow retailers to provide customers with options and choose the one that best suits their needs.
Despite the rise of online retail brick and mortar stores are not going away. There are many valuable functions physical storefronts fulfill. With investment in technology and solutions, these stores can be even more helpful.