Bricks to Clicks: Online Stores Get Real

Article originally posted on Globe St. on May 16, 2019

“Many online retailers that started opening brick-and-mortar stores have seen anywhere from a 30 to 40% increase in sales.” So says Rick Scardino, a principal in the Chicago office of Lee & Associates.

He and his Temecula, CA-based colleague, SVP Brian Bielatowicz, are seeing the bricks-to-click trend growing in both regions, and little wonder. A rising amount of online retailers are starting to follow the Amazon model, recognizing that a physical presence is necessary to remain fully competitive in a tough and expensive market.

It’s the internet equivalent of what many traditional retailers are learning through very tough lessons, namely, they need a well-thought-out and all-encompassing omnichannel strategy to survive.

“We’re starting to see that trend pop up more and more,” says Bielatowicz. “Retailers are following the Amazon model, proving they need physical storefronts for people to see and feel their product and have a convenient place to pick up their merchandise.”

But that could be done in a barebones showroom. To keep shoppers coming back, the oft-repeated buzzword is “experience,” or as Scardino terms it, a “wow” factor.

Retailers are installing such innovations as “magic mirrors and interactive displays for people to come in and see how various clothing options fit or what else is in an online inventory,” says Bielatowicz. “It’s the biggest trend I’ve seen in the clicks-to-bricks movement. And people will increasingly expect such capabilities. Especially as the shoppers trend younger.”

Wait. Does that mean that shoppers of, let’s say, a certain age, will be left out in the cold? In a word, possibly . . . unless . . . “It’s up to us to become savvy in this type of retail environment,” he believes. “Otherwise we’ll miss out on choice and opportunities to save money. It’s becoming more competitive online. Savvy shoppers of any age can leverage that competition with the brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Besides, the wow factor can be, well, fun. Scardino, offers up Canada Goose as just one example of a store with the wow factor. “You can buy a coat any time of year and walk into a freezer to test it in all sorts of weather conditions,” he says. Adidas is another example, giving shoppers access to a treadmill for a 10-minute trial of running shoes.

“People have too many options today,” says Scardino, “and to get them to keep coming back, retailers have to get more creative to make people more comfortable being there rather than shopping in their pajamas at night.”

Besides, what’s good for the Canada Goose is also good for the gander. A strong argument can be made for the cost-effectiveness of brick and mortar. And Bielatowicz makes it.

“Online retailers are finding the customer-acquisition and advertising costs are getting very expensive,” he says.  Then there’s the added cost of social-media advertising. “So having brick-and-mortar stores will definitely give someone an edge over an online based retailer to provide choice, value and convenience back into the shopping experience.”

Besides, he adds: “What’s better than advertising in a major mall with thousands of people on a daily basis seeing your signs and product?”

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