Although ecommerce technology can provide many types of customer-pleasing experiences, it hasn’t yet come up with an alternative to seeing, smelling, tasting, trying on or trying out merchandise first-hand. Those elements of in-person interaction — which can play such a huge role in buying decisions — are missing online. Ecommerce customers must count on digital images, descriptions, and reviews (i.e., “fits as expected” or “runs small”) to answer their questions — or a liberal returns policy — to compensate for not being able to interact with items before they buy.
In-person experiences have been the stronghold of brick-and-mortar retail, however, in recent years, e-tailers have expanded their strategies to include physical showrooms, shops and stores to cater to shoppers who need to see, touch, and try before they reach for their wallets.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Vijay Sondhi, CEO of NMI, calls the phenomenon of successful online businesses establishing a presence in the tangible world “the revenge of brick and mortar.”
Clicks to Bricks Success Stories
According to a research report from professional services firm JLL, businesses among the top 100 digital retailers are planning to open 850 physical stores by 2024. Soho in lower Manhattan, New York City, is a popular location for pop-up stores and test locations for new concepts. Ecomm businesses planning physical locations in Soho are following the lead of online eyeglass company Warby Parker, which opened a store there in 2013 and now has 75 brick-and-mortar locations throughout the US.
Sondhi also points out that Amazon successfully moved from the digital to physical retail worlds with Amazon 4-Star, Amazon Pop-Up, and Amazon Books, as well as entering the grocery space with its Whole Foods acquisition and its innovative, cashierless Amazon Go stores.
Besides pop-up shops and retail stores, some ecommerce businesses are establishing showrooms where customers can try on apparel or inspect products before they order and have items shipped to their homes. One of the advantages of this model for e-tailers is that except for demo items or floor models, no on-site inventory is required. Major ecommerce brands having success with this model include Casper, Bonobos, and M. Gemi.
The Trick to Adding Bricks to Clicks
When it comes to point of sale and payment solutions for physical retail locations, Sondhi comments that some ecommerce businesses don’t have the IT budgets to compete with large, established retailers. Sondhi says there are solutions that allow e-tailers making the foray into physical retail to start small, sometimes just with a tablet or smartphone with a mobile point of sale (mPOS) app and a payment device. He adds that there are also solutions that allow a retailer to manage payments and data analytics across channels. For an ecommerce retailer, that means when a loyal online shopper visits a store, pop-up shop, or showroom, sales associates can recognize them, offer loyalty rewards, and personalize the service and promotions customers receive.
Adding a physical presence to an ecommerce business can give e-tailers the opportunity to grow revenue and also complement a brand with great offline experiences that help connect with customers face-to-face. The right payment solution will allow them to manage sales and payment data on all channels, helping to ensure a more successful move to the brick-and-mortar world.
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