Is now the perfect time to open a physical store?

sectors: Retail

Living in a technology-driven society, it’s no surprise that online shopping is booming. To the generations that have grown up with technology, it feels natural to shop online; they do most other things online after all. Now these generations are growing older, e-commerce is growing with them.

According to The Financial Times, online sales rose to 24.1% of the total market in 2017. But that means physical retail is still responsible for an overwhelming chunk of purchases. Now we’ve overcome rumors of the high street apocalypse, bricks and mortar is making a powerful come-back.

But why now?

Many department stores that have been in the game for years, such as Debenhams and Marks and Spencer, are facing massive closures. At the same time we have online-only brands branching out into physical retail. How are these businesses going to succeed where high-street moguls have failed?

The trick is to combine the best of both worlds. Bricks and mortar offer one thing that e-commerce never can – the physical experience. Whether it’s great customer service, an interactive activity or an Instagram opportunity, it’s important this physical quality is at the core of the customer experience. Pair this with up-to-date technologies and you’ve hit the retail jackpot.

From engaging concept stores to interactive showrooms and large exciting flagship stores, the definition of ‘store’ has changed. Rather than just a place to sell products, they are evolving into a destination. The ability to ‘buy things’ simply isn’t enough for the modern shopper – they can do that online.

Image source: Wonderland

“The ability to ‘buy things’ simply isn’t enough for the modern shopper – they can do that online.”

Consumers now seek a higher experience than shoppers of 40 years ago, and Glossier offer an unforgettable one. The cult online beauty brand began online. Rapidly growing in popularity through social media, the business began testing the waters with pop-ups and showrooms. The fast-growing empire now has two permanent stores.

Starting a shop with online, and therefore with technological foundations, means these brands start on the right foot. Transporting these technologies to a physical store usually results in a well-oiled omnichannel retail experience. Tablet POS systems, click and collect and self-service kiosks all help to engage customers upon arrival.

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to go into a store to try or test a product, only to go and find it online for a cheaper price. They want a pleasurable in-store experience where they can see products but also have the ability to run a thorough price comparison online and get it delivered straight to their door. They seek the hybrid shopping experience, which means it’s important brands have a healthy connection from online to offline.

Image source: Evening Standard

Thanks to technological advances, retail has become multi-channel and exciting. Concept stores and showrooms are revitalizing the shopping world. Offering a more holistic approach to the buying experience, these different styles of shops offer things that e-commerce never can and this is why online-only brands could benefit from branching out into brick and mortar in the near future.


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