How Brick-and-Mortar stores are making a comeback
Nowadays the shift toward online sales has outpaced traditional in-store shopping, marking a significant transformation in the retail landscape. The internet’s influence on consumer behavior has necessitated a reevaluation of business strategies for brick-and-mortar stores to meet modern demands.
Despite this digital dominance, there’s optimism for physical stores, as demonstrated by industry leaders like Amazon and Nordstrom. These giants of e-commerce have underscored the enduring value of physical locations, proving that they remain a viable and robust option for contemporary businesses.
The resurgence of brick-and-mortar establishments after the pandemic is already in progress, signaling a comeback in response to changing consumer preferences and expectations. In-store experiences are undergoing notable shifts to align with the demands of the digital era.
This article delves into the essence of brick and mortar in the context of the digital age, shedding light on how these traditional stores continue to carve out their place in the modern, online-driven retail market. By exploring the evolving role of physical stores, it aims to provide insights into their relevance and adaptation strategies amidst the dynamic challenges posed by e-commerce.
Understanding Brick-and-Mortar Stores
A “brick-and-mortar store” is a physical retail establishment, a place you can walk into, explore, and shop using all your senses, in contrast to the virtual realm of online shopping. These are the traditional storefronts we’ve known for years, where customers can touch, feel, and experience products firsthand. Examples range from familiar local malls housing department stores, grocery outlets, and salons, to the more modern and sleek Apple stores.
Today, e-commerce and mobile commerce are on the rise, brick-and-mortar stores are adapting by embracing a multichannel and omnichannel business strategy. This approach involves integrating various channels and touchpoints to enhance the overall customer experience. Physical stores now act as hubs within this strategy, offering not just products but a range of services and experiences.
Key strategies employed by brick-and-mortar stores include in-store events to engage customers, local pickup options, the convenience of “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS), and the flexibility of “buy online or return in-store” (BORIS). This blend of an online presence and offline tactics is essential for sustaining business growth in a digital age.
Types of Physical Stores
Certain situations favor brick-and-mortar stores, offering a robust business model where in-person shopping is more convenient than online.
- Convenience Stores – These stores thrive on impulse purchases, making up a significant portion of retail locations. Their reliance on spontaneous buying makes it challenging for online stores to replicate their success.
- Groceries – Grocery stores, allowing customers to personally inspect and take products home immediately, maintain an advantage over online alternatives due to the immediacy and hands-on experience.
- Specialty Stores – Catering to specific customer needs, like hardware or bookstores, these face competition from online sellers but serve a niche that values in-person interactions.
- Department Stores – Large establishments offering diverse products across departments. While they are more vulnerable to online competition, their extensive range of products and in-store experience still holds appeal.
Despite the growing prevalence of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores continue to offer unique advantages. They cater to customers who either do not shop online or prefer the tangible and personal experience of in-person shopping. For instance, some older customers, those uncertain about sizes, or individuals searching for highly specific items may be more inclined to visit a physical store.
Studies support the enduring appeal of brick-and-mortar stores, with statistics showing that a significant percentage of shoppers prefer them for the ability to touch and interact with products. Additionally, consumers are more likely to spend more when shopping at a physical location, underscoring the importance of these traditional retail spaces.
The benefits of brick-and-mortar stores go beyond tangible interactions. Customers enjoy the freedom to peruse and test products in person, gaining instant gratification from their purchases. The presence of staff fosters personal relationships, and in-store displays create additional sales opportunities. Furthermore, the physical location generates spontaneous foot traffic, attracting new customers to the business.
One notable advantage of brick-and-mortar stores is the diversity of payment methods they can accommodate. Unlike online stores, which may be limited to debit and credit card transactions, physical stores often use point-of-sale (POS) systems that accept cash, checks, and various card types. This flexibility in payment options caters to a broader customer base with varying preferences.
A Resurgence of Traditional Retail
Let’s explore five reasons behind the recent increase in demand for traditional retail stores.
Consumers Want it Now
Customers prioritize immediate access to products, especially for essentials like hand tools, home goods, and tech accessories. Consumers don’t wait to wait for shipping to have a relaxing bubble bath, and would much rather go in-store to purchase those products.
Size and Feel
While technology, such as L’Oréal’s Style My Hair app, offers virtual experiences, it falls short of replacing the tangible benefits of in-person shopping.
Consider the frustration of ordering an outfit online for a special occasion, only to find it doesn’t fit the day before the event. This is where brick-and-mortar stores excel. Establishments like Body Shops go the extra mile by allowing patrons to physically test products, providing a hands-on experience unmatched in the digital realm.
The inherent desire to touch, feel fabrics, examine colors up close, and ensure items fit comfortably sets traditional stores apart. This assurance is a critical aspect that online shopping struggles to replicate, contributing to the enduring appeal of brick-and-mortar establishments.
Moreover, local stores offer a unique advantage – personalized advice from experienced sales associates. While digital platforms may have chatbots, the value of receiving guidance from a real person regarding product suitability is unparalleled. The human touch, absent in automated responses or distant customer service representatives, further underscores the distinctive appeal of traditional stores. This combination of tangible experiences and personalized assistance reinforces the enduring relevance and attractiveness of brick-and-mortar retail in the face of advancing technology.
Providing Unique Humanized Experiences
Brick-and-mortar stores are actively embracing innovative strategies to counter the overwhelming influence of the digital landscape. Recognizing the need to differentiate themselves, retailers are introducing a variety of unique in-person experiences to rekindle consumer interest.
One noteworthy trend is the incorporation of special events within traditional stores. For instance, a local bookshop might forge partnerships with coffee retailers, creating a cozy café atmosphere where customers can unwind after purchasing exclusive editions like a hardcover box set of “The Lord of the Rings.” This not only adds a social and leisurely aspect to the shopping experience but also transforms the store into a community hub.
Moreover, retailers are leveraging in-store events as powerful engagement tools. Launch parties for new stores or products, book readings or Meetup groups hosted by bookstores or cafes, and classes or workshops organized by retail stores about their products contribute to a dynamic and interactive shopping environment. Even local coffee shops are incorporating live music performances, enhancing the overall ambiance and attracting a diverse clientele.
The essence of these initiatives lies in recognizing that online shopping is primarily driven by convenience, whereas brick-and-mortar establishments are focusing on delivering immersive, humanized, and engaging experiences. By doing so, traditional stores aim not only to draw customers back into their physical spaces but also to redefine the purpose of offline shopping in an era dominated by digital convenience.
Fostering Community Ties
Brick-and-mortar stores serve as more than just retail spaces; they act as hubs for community connections and collaboration. The resurgence of traditional retail is not only driven by the preferences of customers but also by the intrinsic need of business owners for in-person experiences.
One distinctive advantage that physical stores hold over their online counterparts is the immediate access to a local network of suppliers, neighbors, and fellow business owners. This local presence allows businesses to establish meaningful connections within their community, fostering a sense of belonging that is often elusive in the digital retail landscape.
Beyond being points of transaction, offline stores become platforms for collaboration among small business owners. The physical proximity of these businesses provides an opportunity to work together on various initiatives, such as joint projects, promotions, and participation in local events. This collaborative spirit helps create a vibrant local business ecosystem where enterprises support and uplift one another.
Minimizing Environmental Impact
Choosing to shop at brick-and-mortar stores not only provides customers with convenience and unique experiences but also contributes to the reduction of environmental waste associated with excessive packaging and shipping. Unlike many online retailers that often use large boxes and ample padding to ensure product safety during transit, local stores offer customers the option to purchase items without unnecessary packaging.
This eco-friendly approach aligns with the values of Millennials and Gen Z consumers, who place a high importance on environmental issues. As these generations become increasingly conscious of the ecological impact of their consumer choices, the ability to make purchases without contributing to excess waste is a significant factor influencing their shopping preferences.
By allowing consumers to opt for products without unnecessary packaging or the need for extensive shipping materials, brick-and-mortar stores play a pivotal role in reducing overall waste. This environmentally conscious strategy not only meets the expectations of environmentally aware consumers but also positions traditional retailers as responsive to changing consumer needs. This adaptability is crucial for offline retailers to remain competitive while making a positive contribution to sustainability efforts.
Multichannel retail means reaching consumers through various channels, like physical stores, online platforms, and mobile apps. Below are examples of businesses adopting multichannel strategies that show how the retail comeback isn’t about ditching online methods for offline ones. To stay competitive, use a multichannel retail strategy.
Known for its e-commerce site, Amazon also operates Amazon Books (retail bookstores), Amazon Go (checkout-free shopping with automatic product detection), and Amazon Fresh (online and physical grocery store).
This department store chain combines brick-and-mortar shops with an online store. Its mobile app lets customers shop online and pick up orders in a local store. As people return to physical locations, Nordstrom’s net sales for brick-and-mortar stores increased by 23.5%, and Nordstrom Rack’s by 10.3%, while digital sales remained steady.
After bankruptcy in 2019, Forever 21 relied on its e-commerce site. Now, with a retail resurgence, they plan to open fourteen new stores. They focused on digital presence, collaborations, and inventory improvement. The comeback strategy involves smaller stores with a minimalist design, offering a personalized experience based on local demand.
These businesses showcase the effectiveness of a multichannel approach, combining online and offline strategies to meet the diverse preferences of today’s consumers.
The Future of Physical Stores
Major retailers are already using innovations we talked about to help customers find products in-store and share information on digital displays. To keep customers engaged, retailers will keep adopting new tech for a great atmosphere, excellent service, personalized experiences, and easy shopping.
Traditional stores have changed. It’s all about how they connect with today’s shoppers. Making digital screens interactive and creating personalized shopping experiences are crucial. What separates successful physical stores from others? It’s how quickly they adapt. Staying on top of changing consumer behavior is the key.
The comeback of brick-and-mortar stores in our digital age isn’t just a return to the past; it’s a smart evolution. The tangible experiences, personalized assistance, and community connections they offer provide unique value in a world dominated by online convenience. As traditional retailers embrace innovation and a multichannel approach, they’re not just adapting – they’re thriving. So, whether it’s the instant gratification of a local purchase, the joy of exploring in person, or the eco-friendly choice, physical stores are proving that their place in the retail landscape is not only enduring but also necessary.