Is there any hope of reversing ‘Brixit’, the mass exodus of retailers from the brick-n-mortar space? A quick glance paints a gloomy picture. In 2018, more than 3,800 brick-and-mortar stores closed in the U.S. Among those throwing in the towels were brands that permanently went out of business. They’re now ancient history.
E-commerce, meanwhile, is surging, grabbing increasingly larger chunks of the marketing resource pie. This directional shift seems fully warranted by the soaring online retail numbers juxtaposed against the dismal physical store figures. A closer look, however, reveals something surprising in the making.
Online behemoths such as Amazon are beginning to sink more and more investment dollars into – what?! – physical stores. No, this isn’t a misprint. Amazon and counterparts are funding brick-n-mortar versions of their online selves. How can this be? Isn’t the physical store a relic?
Not according to many digital heavyweights. As they see it, real-world shopping still appeals. Part of it is social, and the other part, practical. How do you slip into a pair of fashion sweats online?
So, in one respect, nothing has changed. People still crave the store. What has changed, however, is consumer expectations. Thanks to online convenience, shoppers demand snap results, whether that means instant order fulfillment or on-demand info. Thus, physical stores must adapt the rapid-response model and re-invent the experience to match the modern shopper.
Amazon and other e-commerce champs are leading the way. Consider, for instance, their prioritization of data delivery. In the ‘new’ store, info-access is instant. Got questions about a clothing style? In nanoseconds, you’ll know its availability, suggested alternatives, etc. -- information not generally at the fingertips of the average retail associate. Eliminated will be time-consuming calls to the manager and frustrating waits.
AI technology will power the bulk of the info-ready store. And it will link to a shopper’s smart devices for added speed and convenience.
How brand marketers will respond to this coming change is anybody’s guess. Just when you thought the world made a permanent move to the digital front, along come disrupters like Amazon to change the game again. Clearly, marketers must adapt to capitalize on the emerging opportunities. To a certain extent, it’s back to brick-n-mortar.
Doubters need only consider the popular thinking when television was proposed – the ancient brick-n-mortar movie theaters would be gone in a few years. Still waiting. Yes, some things just need to be re-invented.
If you have questions or comments about retail marketing, or about any other brand-related topic, feel free to send them our way.