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RETAIL RESURRECTION: HOW THE PHYSICAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER

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KEN THRASHER, SENIOR DIRECTOR, MARKETING & E-COMMERCE, THE BRICK

During the dawn of online retailing when eBay came onto the scene in the late ’90s—before Amazon was a household name—people were already predicting the death of brick-and-mortar stores.

Despite what some have viewed as a retail apocalypse, The Brick believes physical stores are more important than ever. As online-born brands such as Warby Parker, Indochino, Clearly and online giants like Amazon invest in their own real estate, a clear picture has emerged that brick-and-mortar is the strongest piece of marketing available to retailers. And we’ve positioned ourselves ahead of the curve here in Canada


Evolving consumer needs

In the past, consumers could only find information about a store’s goods in a catalog or by visiting a store.

However, stores are no longer an initial discovery point, particularly when it comes to information online. And we’re seeing this manifest in consumer trends. According to Forrester, Canadian online retail will generate revenue of $39.9 billion in 2019—9.5 percent of all retail transactions.

Ecommerce has also impacted brick-and-mortar store traffic, contributing to year-over-year decreases, but more informed, higher-value visitors. Having already done their research online, shoppers go in-store to try the product—feel a sofa’s fabric and test out a mattress.

Canadians can’t let go of the sensory experience, still completing most of their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.


Reimagining the role of brick-and-mortar

The Brick can’t discount the critical advantage of our 200 stores across Canada provide us. But to achieve continued success, we need to evaluate their purpose.

Typically, brick-and-mortar stores have been assessed by sales per square foot. But as the shopping experience moves increasingly omnichannel, those traditional success measures are supplemented with metrics allowing a more holistic view.

Despite the advantages that online retail offers, it can never close that sensory gap—a store visit remains the single most valuable customer touchpoint. With increasing competition in retail, it’s critical for stores to take advantage of this by providing a richer in-store experience.

A better in-store experience will improve your online sales and vice versa. This shift has many starting to consider expenses associated with operating physical store locations to be a portion of their customer acquisition cost.


Customizing the in-store experience

Stores need to provide immersive experiences for consumers. So we have included many new features in our new location in West Edmonton Mall (WEM).

We’ve created more engaging displays: furniture and accessories stylized in themed sections, creating inspirational rooms to help customers imagine how items could be incorporated into their homes.

Our store also represents our commitment to the communities where we operate. Our new WEM location includes the first-of-its-kind Charity Corner supporting the Stollery Children’s Hospital via the Children’s Miracle Network.


Capitalizing on digital advancements

We’ve also introduced our Designed2B iOS and Android app that allows customers to build and preview tailored configurations from The Brick’s Designed2B custom furniture line. We’ve also equipped our sales team with tablets to reduce friction points as customers check out.


Staying ahead of the curve

Undoubtedly, traditional retailing has undergone seismic shifts with the growing prevalence of e-commerce retail. And we’ve seen a number of major brick-and-mortar style retailers, such as Sears, close. Yet, The Brick is expanding our physical presence by moving into the Sears formerly occupied in WEM—now our largest store in Edmonton at 55,000 square feet. In our 35-year partnership with WEM, we’ve continued to break ground in ways that have enabled us to stand the test of time.

 

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