Despite the growth of online retail, physical stores remain the king of retail. A 2015 study showed that 85% of consumers of consumers prefer to shop in a physical store instead of online. Even in Amazon's case, 71% of customers would prefer to shop at a physical Amazon store instead of going to Amazon (AMZN) .
This is hardly surprising, as brick and mortar stores offer many advantages. Customers can look and hold products, consult a sales professional, and do not need to wait for the product to ship. These are all things which online retailers cannot provide without opening their own brick and mortar store. A number of these online businesses are doing just that.
But transforming from just an online store to one with a physical storefront can be challenging. Here are some key benefits opening a brick and mortar store can give an online business, as well as key ways to build on those advantages.
Importance of Visibility
The Internet is a big place. And a key challenge for any online retailer is distinguishing themselves from the thousands of other online retailers, especially when the customer can just leave by typing in a new address.
Establishing a physical store can go a long ways towards improving visibility. It shows that your store is something more than a quirky niche store. Individuals who normally do not shop online can discover the store, and a physical store can become a presence in the community, ensuring a steady stream of loyal customers in the area.
In order to get that visibility, a retailer needs to work to appeal to the community. Regularly attending community events, getting good sales managers and retail workers, and investing in keeping customers loyal just like you do with online shoppers are key ways to attract a loyal physical consumer base.
Syncing Online and Physical Stores
Customers will often check out a product physically and then buy it online, as well as the reverse. This is particularly prevalent in clothing, eyeglasses, and body products. Highly regarded eyeglass retailer Warby Parker is among the companies that have opened bricks-and-mortar locations.
Retailers that sell physically and online increase the likelihood that a consumer will buy products or services from them. Amazon and other retailers use a "hands-free" strategy to take advantage of this. They let customers sample a book or try out some clothes at the physical store. The customer orders it to be shipped to his home like he had ordered it online, and then he can walk out of the store without needing to lug a heavy bag.
This approach also means that stores with an online element can keep a smaller inventory compared to bricks and mortar operations.