Agile Retail: Why Online Retailers are Shifting to Brick-and-Mortar

Who said the brick-and-mortar store was dead? Contrary to popular belief, shoppers are not abandoning brick-and-mortar to shop online exclusively. Although consumers do relish the convenience and vast inventory available via online shopping, they still crave the tactile experience of the retail store. Because of this, many brands that began online are now opening physical stores, bringing the online and in-store shopping experiences together.

 Embracing the Pace of Change with Experiential Retail

Despite the ease and popularity of online shopping, the Census Bureau found that online transactions accounted for less than 9 percent of all retail transactions in the first quarter of 2017. In short, most shoppers continue to choose brick-and-mortar stores over e-commerce.

However, if shoppers still crave the in-store shopping experience, why are so many brick-and-mortar retailers suffering mid-life crises, experiencing falling sales and declining traffic? Much of this has to do with shoppers turning to innovative brands that are disrupting and revolutionizing the traditional in-store shopping experience.

The ever-changing retail landscape in the age of e-commerce is perpetually blurring the lines between digital and physical retail, as previously online-only brands are shifting to brick-and-mortar storefronts. Successful stores today are turning themselves into destinations, offering innovative experiences, devising ever more innovative ways to attract shoppers in and keep them coming back for more. 

To be successful, online retailers are looking to experiential marketing campaigns and omni-channel shopping experiences to create an agile store. In other words, they are bringing the amenities of the online world into brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce brands can strengthen their overall customer engagement and brand affinity by offering the benefits of digital channels and the physical store. After all, the only way to justify a customer making the trip to your store (rather than shopping online) is to give them an experience they can’t get anywhere else.

The Future of the Retail Store 

Yoga classes, coffee shops, interactive displays, showrooms and more—retail therapy is taking on a whole new meaning. Exclusively online retailers with loyal customers are suddenly shifting to brick-and-mortar stores to better engage with their customers yet continuing to grow their thriving online presence.

The digitally native skincare and beauty brand, Glossier, for example, developed their cult following through online and social media platforms before opening their first brick-and-mortar store in 2016. After a slew of hugely successful experiential retail campaigns such as pop-up shops and multi-sensory installations, the beauty brand continued to expand its ever-growing beauty empire by opening a permanent showroom in New York City. There, shoppers can test, try, and take home products that were once only available online. 

Other brands are winning in the experiential retail space by forgoing selling items in the store altogether, opting instead to deliver a customer experience as their customers purchase products online. This has been highly successful as, according to a recent survey of 1,200 adults, eighty-six percent of shoppers like "experience stores," where they can test products in the store but buy via mobile or online.

For instance, thriving e-commerce brands (like Warby Parker and Bonobos) have begun opening brick-and-mortar retail locations across the country. The online eyeglasses and sunglasses retailer, Warby Parker, allows customers to select up to five styles of eyeglasses online and have them delivered to their homes to test out for free. The company believes that having a better understanding of their customers has allowed them to tailor their customer experience better than competitors.

Bonobos, the previously online-only men’s retailer, has invested in in-store tech to provide a seamless shopping experience for their customers. Bonobos shoppers today can try on product samples on location with sales associates available to answer sizing and styling questions in person. The company’s combination of personalized service and in-store mobile technology is helping employees forge deeper relationships with shoppers.

Outpacing the Competition with a Robust, Agile Retail Store Solution

Today’s consumers exist in a world that moves at an unparalleled pace. Retailers need to embrace change to remain competitive and employ experiential marketing initiatives to create an agile store that keeps up with consumer needs. Retail stores with online and in-store components can create an experience customers engage with and remember. All in all, stores that provide unique store experiences will be king in 2017 and beyond. 

Implementing an enterprise retail execution and workforce management platform like Natural Insight gives retailers a way to accommodate changing consumer needs. With it, they can easily deliver the experiential shopping and improved customer service that today’s shoppers expect.

 Schedule a demo with us today to learn how Natural Insight can help you improve your in-store performance and stay competitive in the ever-changing retail landscape.


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Caroline Lane photo
Caroline Lane is the Director of Marketing at Natural Insight. Prior to joining Natural Insight, Lane was a senior marketing manager with Aquicore, an energy management software system for real estate portfolios. Lane was one of the company’s first ten employees hired and was responsible for building Aquicore’s marketing strategy from the ground up. Lane also previously worked at Renault - Nissan where she helped the automobile manufacturer penetrate more than 14 Asian and African countries. She has a Masters of Science in Management from EMLYON, one of Europe’s top ranking business schools located in France.