Think back to ten years ago. If you knew then how e-commerce would impact your business today, would you have as many store locations as you do now? Would your spaces be as big?
Our friends at Bain & Company asked us this very question. Within moments, we felt reassured in our belief that, despite digital growth, physical stores still matter.
When looking at the current state of the industry, we know that new store openings have been on the decline, department chains are aren’t opening as many stores, and retailers are breaking into the industry as online-only stores. From a bird’s eye view, things may not look optimistic for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
However, we’re seeing many online-only retailers adjust their strategy to omnichannel and open physical locations. Why? Because shoppers want to interact with the merchandise before they decide to spend money. They want the ability to touch and compare products in store, get expert advice from associates, avoid shipping costs, and have the merchandise immediately in hand. Of course, there are ways of doing some of these online but, depending on the item being considered, avoiding the physical store could end up being a hassle in the long run.
So how do we make up for the store closings? Unfortunately, we can’t. We can, however, invest in the future by not thinking of brick-and-mortar separately from online, and not trying to master omnichannel all at once. Instead, let’s rethink our strategy, and start testing them in a handful of pilot stores. While easier said than done, a few suggestions from Bain include optimizing inventory management to enable in-store pickup for online purchases, rewarding local stores for in-store pickup and incentivizing associates to help customers buy online when items are out of stock.