Omnichannel Retail: Brick & Mortar Still Matters!

April 01, 2016 | B2C Retail

What a difference a few years makes. It wasn’t all that long ago that industry pundits were debating the merits of “bricks versus clicks.” Flash forward, and that conversation has been largely put to rest by the rush to adopt an omnichannel retail strategy.

“If you want to increase the traffic to your website, open stores," said Scott Galloway, founder of L2 and professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern of Business. "High-end malls continue to experience growth in sales per square foot, making them an attractive option for evolved retailers looking for brick-and-mortar spaces.”

A study by L2, ““Death of Pureplay Retail,” links retailers’ success to an omnichannel retail strategy that includes physical stores. It contends that online-only retailers are at a distinct disadvantage due to high costs for marketing and shipping, which makes their business model challenging and, for many, ultimately unsustainable in the long-term. Pure play retailers also struggle in an ever expensive game of trying to drive awareness.

By contrast, online retailers who also leverage physical store locations drive higher organic site traffic and lower customer acquisition costs. What’s more, online retailers that also have opened brick-and-mortar stores can reap the dual benefits of both profitable new points of distribution as well as increased consumer awareness.

Shoppers prefer to make in-store purchases

Also the study reports, digital shoppers report that traditional in-store experiences are the most important touch-point for purchase consideration. And, nearly two-thirds of digital consumers cite the ability to see, touch, and try merchandise as a main factor for preferring in-store purchases. Over half appreciate the ability to get products immediately, and one-third turn to stores to be certain about the fit and suitability of items as well as in-person advice on fit and style.

Savvy online retailers, of course, have heeded the call. Warby Parker, Bonobos, Fabletics, Rent the Runway, Bauble Bar, ModCloth, Birchbox and Blue Nile have all opened physical outposts.

Some, including Bonobos and Blue Nile, operate more on an updated showroom model, while others, such as Warby Parker and Fabletics, have put a new spin on traditional physical retailing.

Even the giant of all online pure-players—Amazon—is testing a freestanding bookstore, in its Seattle hometown.

“Looking back at the holiday season, the major trend that emerged is the prevalence of the omnichannel consumer and the resulting convergence among brick and mortar and digital retail,” stated Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC in the group’s Holiday Consumer Purchasing Trends study. “The story of bricks vs. clicks is an old one. The story is now one of a shopper getting the best of both worlds.” Bricks and mortar will continue to play an important role in omnichannel retail.

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