Amazon and its competitors may have been huffing and puffing, but nothing seems to blow down the good old fashioned brick-and-mortar store! Oh, they’re changing to keep up with the times, alright, but they’re not going anywhere. While there have been some closings, with 2017 being a record year, the physical store is a permanent main stay. Not only does the brick-and-mortar have to work in tandem with on-line shopping, it must offer an experience that one just can’t get sitting in front of a computer.
On-line shopping has its attractions. No traffic, no need to find a parking space, no confrontations with surly customers. There’s not even a need to get dressed! You can do it all in your pajamas! Still, there are people who see shopping as a fun weekend excursion to do with friends. There are people who want to try things out before they buy them.
Often, the consumer will use the brick-and-mortar store as a showroom, a place to physically examine and test a product before finding it cheaper on-line. What the savvy business owner does in such a case is compete by having polite and knowledgeable customer service workers as well as their own on-line site with competitive pricing. (“If you’d rather have it in pink, we can order it on-line for you.”) A little politeness goes a long way, as customers are more likely to buy a product if they get good service. Knowledgeable salespeople can demonstrate and discuss the items they sell and make recommendations.
The brick-and-mortar stores that survive the digital age are going to be the ones that play to their strengths. Getting people into the store to begin with means making it worth the trip. Many stores are doing this by providing in store technology to make the experience easier and casual restaurants to provide a chance to relax. The experience of course, must be cost effective.
A place that sells luxury cars or high end fashions may be able to provide free magazines and refreshments that more modest places may not. Places that sell electronics will provide game demos and provide a “geek squad” to tell you how to use devices and what accessories you might need. A place that sells cosmetics may provide perfume samples and have a cosmetologist demonstrate how best to use their products.
A book store will encourage you to pull up a chair and read and give suggestions on what kind of book might be best for the consumer. Glasses, food and clothing are the top items most people would rather buy in person. During the holiday season, a store may provide a gift wrapping service. What’s more, inspecting a product in person just minutes before buying insures that you won’t be disappointed because someone shipped out the wrong item.
On-line stores needn’t creep through the chimney of brick-and-mortar. The brick-and-mortar has opened a side door and agreed to co-operate. Remember; in some versions of “The Three Little Pigs” the wolf and pig go shopping at the fair together. That’s a happy ending for everyone.