Clicks vs. Bricks Part 1: Is Brick and Mortar Dead?

I went into a Pottery Barn store over the weekend with the intention of making a purchase decision on an ottoman for our family room. I had looked online, also received the catalog but really wanted to go into the store, feel the fabric, get a sense of the size and how the ottoman interacted with my physical space. I was greeted by a welcoming sales person and she helped me narrow down my choices. I then told her that I needed to go home and measure again and that I planned to purchase online. She stopped me in my tracks and asked me kindly if I could please purchase in the store. She went on to say that because more and more shoppers are going online, they may have to be forced to close their store.

I know this scenario is not unique.

If you’re staying up-to-date on the latest marketing trends, chances are you’ve read an article or two about the e-commerce explosion. For the last five years or so, online shopping has been on the up-and-up, leading to the replacement of brick-and-mortar establishments with thriving digital storefronts. So, looking at this data, it’s time to say goodbye to brick-and-mortar for good, right?

Wrong.

In the world of modern retail marketing, it’s all about omnichannel investment. Sound like a mouthful? Well, the definition is simple. The term “omnichannel” refers to multiple forms of retail, whether its online, in-store or mobile. Catering to shoppers at every level, omnichannel marketing is a must for any retail establishment. Studies show that physical stores continue to serve as crucial touchpoint in the buying process. In fact, 95 percent of all retail sales are obtained by retailers with a brick-and-mortar store. Storefronts give buyers the chance to familiarize themselves with a brand, test products and discover new favorites. The majority of consumers in retail categories like apparel and accessories, health and beauty and furniture start the buying cycle in-store as opposed to other retail channels.

In addition, storefronts create a space for brand identity to come to life. Merchandising is a crucial way for brands to sell products while fashioning a signature look and feel. Brick-and-mortar stores can create a memorable sensory environment that evokes excitement and inspiration among shoppers. Brands like Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, give customers the chance to feel fabrics and smell fragrances in the hopes that customers will have a warm and comforting shopping experience. Studies have indicated that tactile experience can alter people’s thoughts and behavior. For example, a study published in Science Magazine surveyed a group of people to see if feelings of warmth altered investment decisions. Results showed that the group who held a warm heating pad invested 43 percent more money, linking the physical sensation of warmth to psychological feelings of warmth and safety. The same goes for brick-and-mortar shopping, as customers value the comfort of tangibly experiencing a product before purchasing it.

The layout of a space is another driving factor behind brick-and-mortar purchases. With expansive floorplans, organic design elements and plenty of selection, Whole Foods Market gives visitors with the freedom to explore and interact with their products in a spacious and inviting environment. The store even brings taste into the mix, providing free samples to familiarize shoppers with their offerings in a fun and engaging way.

From a visual standpoint, color can also have a huge impact on the buying experience. Warm colors, like red and yellow, correlate with heightened energy levels while cool tones, like blue and green, create a calmer atmosphere. According to a survey by Kissmetrics, color increases brand recognition by 80 percent. Every color is associated with different feelings and, in turn, work best for different products. As colors like red and orange typically attract impulse shoppers, you’ll find this color scheme in fast food restaurants, outlet malls and clearance sales. Navy blue and teal appeal to shoppers on a budget, so you’re likely to see these colors in banks and department stores. Colors like pink and light blue catch the eye of traditional buyers, and these colors make their way into a variety of clothing stores. The same goes for text as 52 percent of shoppers are more likely to enter a store with a sale sign in the window.

If you’re retail brand adheres to an omnichannel marketing strategy, you’re going to want to make sure branding is consistent on every platform, including social media. Building a social profile that is consistent with your brand’s overall look and feel will make for a more streamlined user experience. To ensure customers immediately recognize your brand’s social profile, posts include branded colors, incorporate the same avatar for every platform and filters should be consistent throughout. If multiple people are handling your social media account, consider creating a template for shared images.

To implement a successful retail marketing strategy, inclusivity is the key. Each platform, whether it be on various online channels, traditional media channels or a brick and mortar storefront, provides a unique appeal that contributes to the sales process. Moreover, branding should be consistent across these platforms to better user experience. For strong results today, remember that retail is all-encompassing, not exclusive.

So, yes, Pottery Barn did get my business and my heart won over convenience and I purchased my ottoman from the welcoming, friendly and assertive sales person who actually “asked for the sale.”

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