If I had a bitcoin for every time I heard Brick and Mortar is dead…
When the television was invented, people said it was sure to destroy radio. With streaming, it was the end of TV. Neither of those things have happened. In fact, TV and Radio are thriving… in a different way.
The rules of engagement have changed - and Brick and Mortar is definitely not dead.
Modern Business Models for Modern Consumers
Consumers no longer passively accept what is in front of them. They select what they want to watch, listen to, and buy. Today’s consumers have more control than ever over how they want to shop.
One could argue that Brick and Mortar is having a revival. A physical storefront still serves its fundamental role of giving the consumer a space to try and buy the merch. But it is now, so much more!
We now use the physical store as the showroom for ecommerce. Consider Diff’s client Boll&Branch, who started as a pure-play ecommerce merchant, but recently launched a showroom in the upscale Short Hills Mall, New Jersey. They did this to give consumers a chance to touch and feel their luxuriously-soft sheets. They can then buy them in the store or online, to be delivered to their home.
Strategic Brick and Mortar can build brands.
Particularly when you keep in mind the truth of “location, location, location.” One only needs to look at the pop-up fashion and lifestyle stores in The Hamptons each summer to understand the PR opportunities and brand halo that rubbing shoulders with the well-to-do can offer.
But Brick and Mortar Costs Money
There’s no question that Brick and Mortar is expensive. You have to pay rent, invest in shop fittings, pay staff, and somehow compete with the more agile online options. With the right strategy and system integration, however, a traditional storefront model can be reinvented as multi-channel powerhouse.
Take our client Yellow Shoes. Yellow is a century-old brand with over 100 storefronts across Canada. By creating a custom solution that integrated their legacy ERP, accounting, and distribution systems with their new Shopify site, we turned their physical stores into warehouse and distribution hubs that, in turn, allowed them to offer free shipping.
Conversion rates and shopping carts doubled overnight. Yellow is now a multi-million dollar online retailer.
Brick and Mortar is not dead. It can be a key strategic move.
Ministry clothing was another pure-play ecomm fashion technology brand. After achieving significant success online, however, it opened Flagship stores in NYC and the Bay Area (with more to come) to cater to their most valuable customers, and drive further reach and awareness.
A physical storefront adds weight and trustworthiness. It increases visibility. And it provides a sensory experience. Human nature has not changed as quickly as technology. We still value personal interaction along with the touch and feel of objects. And we must not discount the recreational and social aspect of shopping.
If Brick and Mortar is alive and well, what is the future of retail?
The future of retail is digital-first.
Successful retailers will need a seamless omnichannel solution that integrates their business functions, and invites customers to interact and purchase at every touch point.
The shopping experience used to emphasize personal attention and customer-focus more than it does today. There is still room and opportunity for those values.
In the near future, we can expect more examples of ecommerce-enabled flagship stores that become gathering places. They will offer personalized, high-quality experiences that add value to their products and improve brand perception. They will focus on the human interaction that is lacking online and provide enticing environments that give people a reason to visit.
Cover photo by Dương Trần Quốc