The short answer to this question is yes.
It’s yes for two reasons: The first being brick and mortar is still an important part of any healthy retail strategy; and the second is after this period of intermittent lockdowns, people will want to get outside and do some in-person shopping in 2021, when it’s safe to do so.
It is becoming increasingly clear the preached ‘death’ of bricks and mortar was premature.
Research shows 82.5 per cent of all retail sales will still happen inside physical stores up to 2021. Reports also show e-retail sales accounted for 14.1 per cent of all retail sales worldwide earlier this year, and these figures are expected to reach only 22 per cent by 2023.
Brick and mortar will transform
However, while the above is the reality, bricks and mortar will need to continually transform in order to keep its place in an overall retail strategy.
The traditional retail model was already under immense pressure to transform, even before this year, in order to better serve changing customer demands. A physical store is now just one touchpoint in the customer journey, and not necessarily the point of purchase. Now, brick and mortar simply makes up one aspect of an increasingly cohesive omnichannel strategy.
Clever retailers are adjusting their bricks and mortar presence to be more ‘experiential’, with mobile pop-up stores, interactive displays, and a physical presence better integrated with online shopping.
In previous years, the physical store and commission-driven models served one purpose – to make sales. However, with the maturity of the consumer comes the maturation of the retail model. Now, physical stores are experience-driven rather than sales-driven.
Experience-driven blends the physical and the digital, to enhance the overall experience for consumers and therefore making purchase more likely. For many consumers, the desire to see, feel and smell prior to purchase remains strong. Private appointments and consultations in store are a way to facilitate this during isolation, and are popular with consumers who enjoy an exclusive feel. Likewise, AR integrated to online and offline shoppers can facilitate the ‘trying’ on of clothes without having to disrobe.
Personalisation in stores is going to be increasingly popular, as sales people are enabled with online purchase history before approaching a customer, as is using stores to communicate brand values and offer extra value, rather than items on sale. Culture Kings is a fantastic example of experiential shopping. Shoppers in stores can get a haircut, play some basketball, play video games and watch YouTube, all while surrounded by the latest merchandise. Its stores are increasingly known as a place to ‘spend a few hours’ rather than as somewhere to shop, and as such also facilitates shoppers purchasing online.
Finally, mobile pop-ups – smaller recreations of stores at relevant audience locations such as music festivals, are also becoming a part of the physical retail strategy. They are a great way to introduce a brand to a target audience and facilitate in person online shopping with delivery.
Delivery and distribution
While Salesforce is predicting digital commerce will grow 34 per cent this holiday shopping season in the US, brick and mortar cannot cease to exist without significantly impacting the brands’ bottom line. Instead, retailers will become more clever with the use of physical stores, creating engaging experiences and facilitating online shopping at actual locations.
Increasingly, brick-and-mortar stores are also becoming fulfillment centres. A hybrid offline/offline and online means physical stores can offer things like click and collect, for those customers who have ordered online and want to collect their purchase the same day.
Similarly, a large physical store footprint can also act as an online distribution centre at multiple locations, to better facilitate delivery, and at less expense, than a single, central warehouse.
The future is exciting
As digital innovation continues to help retailers engage with customers in new ways, we will see an exciting convergence of online and offline experiences. The new digitally enabled traditional brick-and-mortar environment will open up new opportunities for brands to ‘surprise and delight’ customers, and create those emotional connections that customers are looking for now and beyond the pandemic.