Recently, online stores have begun bucking the digital trend and are moving back into brick and mortar retail spaces.
Yes, digital small businesses are following in the wake of their bigger competitors like Amazon and Shopify and looking at physical retail space through a different lens.
Why is this happening? Well, these retailers are looking at it from the perspective of what a physical store can do for their brand and customer buying experience that is unique or better than what can be done solely online.
What else is causing this shift?
First, online marketing and advertising rates have skyrocketed. While social channel ads are still cents per impression, posting a digital ad to a larger website can get pricey quickly. Plus, a lot of times site visitors simply tune out those ads.
Second, some owners of commercial real estate are sweetening the pot. Rents at retail stores are improving. Some landlords and management companies are also more open to shorter-term rent deals and pop-up concepts, so there is a lower risk to trying out a physical retail store.
The shift is also being attributed to a growing preference among retail consumers to physically interact with products. These customers want the kind of tactile experience an online store can’t provide. Think of the last time you wanted to purchase a pricier item like a FitBit or designer handbag. Being able to interact and hold and touch it in person is much more powerful in person that any sort of video or online experience a brand could provide.
Experts see the trend gaining momentum, creating a new online/brick and mortar hybrid unlike the chain retailers it is replacing.
However in this new hybrid space, many don’t believe the scale of stores will be the same as that of traditional retail chains. Some online retailers may only open up just one store, or a handful of stores.
There is also a paradoxical trend in the opposite direction to some degree with brick and mortar stores investing more in their online presence. We talk about this concept a lot in our Blended Retail eBook that you can download for free here.
So before you go out and make the jump from online business to brick and mortar business, I’d like to offer a suggestion: Evaluate if your business, merchandise or brand experience can be enhanced by a physical retail location. If the answer is yes, then perhaps start with a pop-up and test the waters. If no, simply try enhancing your online presence with new product videos or customer testimonials.
No matter where your brand mainly lives, it's important to strive to present any and every customer with the best experience possible.
Leslie Youngblood is the Creative Director for Excelerate America, the fun, smart service for small businesses. What do you think about the new trend of online companies moving into the brick and mortar space? Share your thoughts by commenting or by emailing Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.