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Tech Bytes: Three Reasons for E-Tailers to go Brick-and-Mortar


While rumors of Amazon launching a chain of physical bookstores seem to be exaggerated, there is no question that pure-play retailers are beginning to make inroads into the brick-and-mortar channel. Over the past couple of years, e-tailers as diverse as Warby Parker, Bonobos and Birchbox have not only opened stores, but committed themselves to expanding in the space.

Here are a few good reasons for virtual enterprises to consider selling items in a “real” environment.

Buy Online, Pickup at Your Store

Brick-and-mortar retailers have been having huge success with variations on “buy online pickup in store” (BOPIS) offerings. This fulfillment mechanism eliminates delivery charges and also means consumers don’t have to worry about packages getting lost, stolen or damaged if they are not home to receive them.

E-retailers have been trying to get in on the BOPIS action by teaming up with brick-and-mortar retailers or other partners, such as colleges or even storage facilities, to serve as a pickup point for their goods.

However, why share the proceeds of your online sales with a third party when you can just do the whole thing yourself with proprietary physical stores?

Built-in Personalization

Retailers whose primary expertise is brick-and-mortar have been scrambling in recent years to improve their personalization efforts. One of the biggest knocks on the physical retail experience is that it is not as customer-friendly and focused as shopping online.

On the front end, one of the major goals of most brick-and-mortar retailers’ omnichannel efforts is to more directly integrate the physical customer experience with the more personalized and responsive digital customer experience.

Coming from the opposite end in their omnichannel programs gives pure-play retailers a big advantage when it comes to offering a personalized in-store experience. Pure-play retailers inherently operate in a customer-centric manner. They are able to track every shoppers’ every move and easily obtain detailed data on preferences, shopping history and other information that supports deep personalization.

Thus when a pure-play retailer opens a brick-and-mortar store, they are much better able to offer one-to-one, personalized service. And even on an aggregated level, pure-play retailers have troves of data on general consumer trends and preferences that are not as readily available to their more traditional peers.

Public Image Unlimited

No amount of social promotion, TV advertising, targeted texting, or any other brand awareness efforts a pure play retailer can launch compares to a physical store in terms of creating public awareness. Think of a store as a permanent, interactive advertisement that customers cannot block or click away from.

In addition, pure-play retailers can further bolster their brand image and awareness by using their stores as real-time promotional magnets. This can include sending location- and time-sensitive texts to registered mobile consumers as they pass by, as well as store-specific promotions based on local conditions such as traffic or weather.

Finally, a customer in a store cannot help but see a wide cross-section of your merchandise, in contrast to online consumers who can zoom in on a specific product. Simply having an assortment in a customer’s line of sight can inform them of products they may not have otherwise known you sold. It can also unlock highly individualized ancillary sales opportunities that even the most detailed click analysis would not reveal.

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