Brick and Mortar Retail – Surviving in the 21st Century

There is no question about it. Younger generations who want speed and efficiency, technology, and COVID-19 have all brought an existential threat to brick-and-mortar retailers. 

So, let’s take a look at each of these three “threats.”

Covid-19

Once the pandemic hit, consumers were isolated in their homes except for securing the basic necessities – food, medicine, etc. 

With so much “home time,” it was only natural that consumers would turn to online resources to meet the needs and wants in their lives. People had plenty of time on their hands, and they used that time to scour the web for online retailers and their offerings. They even took to accessing online dating services so that they could connect with other humans at least digitally. For an example of this phenomenon, click here. In fact, almost every company providing a product or service became an online retailer during this time. 

Once things began to open up again, consumers were more comfortable with online shopping than ever before.

Demands of Younger Generations

Speed and efficiency – that’s what younger generations have come to expect in all aspects of their lives. Online shopping is almost a given, especially if they can get rapid delivery through such services as Amazon Prime. They want what they want when they want it and do not seem to have the time or patience to visit brick-and-mortar stores and physically inspect all that is offered. If they don’t like what they ordered, they just slap a return label on the box and move on.

Technology

This may be the biggest threat of all. Today’s consumer can virtually try on clothes, eyewear, and other items. They can choose paint colors and furniture and digitally decorate their rooms before making online purchases to be delivered to their doorsteps. They can immerse themselves in resort offerings and make their own travel arrangements without the use of a brick-and-mortar travel agency. 

How Do Brick and Mortar Retailers Fight Back?

Many have not fought back. They have simply closed their physical locations and opted for fully online shopping. But others have decided to try to stem the tide and keep their brick-and-mortar stores open. What should they be doing?

Maintain an Online Presence

Even small local stores must have some online presence, or they may not survive. And of course, the “big boys” must maintain their large presence too. There are simply too many people in the 2020s who will do most of their shopping online. Consider, for example, that many people are even doing their grocery shopping online today. 

Placing Online Orders for Pick-Up or Delivery from a Local Store

There is also the option for consumers to place online orders from a brick-and-mortar store and then go and pick up that order at the facility – a perfect blend of an online and in-store mesh.

There is also a huge growth in shopping from small stores and “big boys” that exist locally, with products being delivered within 24 hours – another perfect blend of online and in-store sales, satisfying the current demands of consumers for speed and efficiency.

Big boys that maintain physical stores in strategic locations will benefit and profit from these innovations.

Providing Engaging, Streamlined, and Rather Amazing In-Store Experiences

Here are more challenging but exciting innovative strategies that in-store retailers can use to draw consumers into their facilities and make the experience far more satisfying than mere online shopping. Here are some of the most recent innovations that could be copied, at least in part, by others.

  • A personal shopper greets each customer, moves through the store with them, answering questions and tabulating their purchases on a tablet for payment right then and there. As they move to exit the store, their purchases are bagged and ready to go.
  • Consumers are given opportunities to have experience with the products that are offered in new and innovative ways. The mattress brand Casper, for example, in its New York City store, offers the rental of a mattress. For a fee, a consumer can take a nap, be provided with pajamas, a private sleeping pod, and even a fresh coffee upon waking.
  • Based on customer reviews, companies like Amazon are stocking their physical stores with the most popular products, streamlining customer in-store purchasing via IoT devices and cameras. The consumer doesn’t have to go through any checkout process.

The Future for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

As long as they keep an eye on consumer demands and innovation, physical space retailers have a bright future. They need to embrace the meshing of online and in-store collaborations; they need to embrace the creative innovations that will bring consumers in. If they stay relevant; if they meet the needs and demands of consumers for efficiency, speed, and engagement, they will not only survive. They will thrive.

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