How do Brick-and-Mortar Stores Fit into Omnichannel Strategies?

Jul 19, 2018 in Retail

It’s common knowledge that omnichannel is the future of retail, but are retailers properly prepared for this new environment? There are many considerations that need to be addressed to implement a true omnichannel strategy, and in many cases, companies overlook some critical elements when putting their own plans in place.

According to a December 2017 study published by Multichannel Merchant, 74 percent of retailers are unsatisfied with their current omnichannel strategies, and 19 percent view omnichannel as a “pipe dream.”

Although there’s no silver-bullet solution for omnichannel success, there is one common mistake companies make: neglecting brick and mortar. Physical stores are a critical part of the omnichannel equation. Here’s why:

Brick and mortar is a valuable touch point—even when no purchase is made

Digital channels often get the lion’s share of attention when companies embark on their own omnichannel journey. For years, industry observers have predicted the untimely end of brick-and-mortar and e-commerce’s ascension as the status quo in retail. Moreover, there are so many different digital channels to account for—websites, mobile apps, and social media, to name a few—that a great deal of resources are required to optimize each.

That being said, don’t sleep on brick-and-mortar because your physical stores funnel customers back toward your other channels. There’s no substitute for the tactile engagement that brick-and-mortar stores offer consumers, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like appliances and furniture. “Showrooming” is a very real phenomenon, and it’s not limited to large products—customers may vet everything from toys to electronics in person before making a purchase online.

Even missed sales opportunities at brick-and-mortar locations can pay off for digital channels at a later date. Window shoppers may peruse items but hold off on buying anything until they’ve had a chance to compare prices online. The decision to purchase that product happens at the physical touch point, but the transaction doesn’t occur until the customer conducts research on different channels at home.

Directing digital users to brick-and-mortar stores

Just as brick-and-mortar stores can direct customers to your digital channels, those touch points can send them right back to your physical locations. Sometimes there’s no substitute for the immediacy of buying a product at an actual store. Digital channels can increase the convenience of shopping at brick-and-mortar locations by offering “pick up at store” options. That way, customers don’t have to wait several days to receive their items.

Product pages on brand sites can also show visitors which stores in their vicinity have specific items in stock. This cuts down on the frustration of customers venturing from store to store in search of a particular product.

Omnichannel doesn’t need to be a “pipe dream,” but it does take a lot of hard work to get right. Bridging the divide between physical and digital channels is essential for successful omnichannel strategies. The payoff will be worth the effort.