We’ve all seen the stats. And as much as it hurts to say it, it’s true—traditional brick-and-mortar retail businesses are struggling.
In 2017 alone, a whopping nine major retailers announced bankruptcies. Not only that, but RadioShack, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Sears each announced more than 100 store closures. It’s gotten so rough that this mass exodus of brick-and-mortar stores has even been called the “Retail Apocalypse.”
But in spite of these tell-tale signs of the industry’s collapse, top brands are finding new ways to adapt to the changing climate.
Many of the most innovative retailers are expanding their business models into ecommerce, building out the online side to their physical stores. By doing so, they’re fighting back against the growing threat from Amazon and other digital-native brands.
But does this marketing strategy actually work, and will it save many of today’s struggling retailers? It can, but only if done correctly. Here’s how your brick-and-mortar business can successfully make the transition into ecommerce.
Build your ecommerce store
As a brick-and-mortar shop, you first have to decide how much of your inventory you plan to sell online. Some brick-and-mortar stores opt to sell every product they have, while others offer a more limited selection of their goods. It really depends on your market and the depth of your product selection, along with your logistical and warehousing capabilities.
Before you make a final decision, consider the technical complexity of fulfilling customers’ demand for your products. Also, you’ll want to think through how you can continue to maintain a high level of customer service and satisfaction in an online environment.
Most importantly for your brand, you want to create an online store that makes it simple and frictionless for your buyers to purchase their favorite items.
After all, ecommerce is really all about convenience. Part of your customer base will love the ability to buy online and ship products directly to their home, rather than going to the store. Others may prefer to order products online and pick them up in-store. Ultimately, you want to give your customers as many options as possible while still keeping the barrier to entry low with perks like offering multiple payment methods, speedy shipping, and a simple return process.
Don’t close your retail locations
Surprisingly, moving to online-only and shuttering your retail stores won’t save your brand from the Retail Apocalypse. In fact, the ideal approach to bucking the trend? Selling both online and in-store to maximize profits.
To help explain this two-fold marketing strategy, look no further than Kohl’s. The department store chain took the leap into ecommerce and online sales were up 12% in 2016. However, in locations where they closed one of their retail stores, online sales were flat. Kohl’s leadership realized that the presence of a brick-and-mortar store locally was key to success both online and in-store.
This stance goes directly against the assumption that ecommerce is the answer to saving retail from extinction. In fact, many online-only brands are now putting a toe in the physical store waters.
For instance, eyeglasses brand Warby Parker may have started as an online business, but now they’ve built a select number of retail stores to better serve their customers. Clearly, success in B2C isn’t all online, but rather relies on finding the right balance of ecommerce and in-store shopping experiences to best serve your customer base.
Warby Parker isn’t the only once-online brand seeing the value of opening physical locations that cater to in-person shoppers. Dormify, a small-space decor brand, recently opened a showroom in New York City and has plans to open others throughout the U.S. It’s just another example of how successful ecommerce businesses are showing no signs of relying solely on their online presence to connect with customers and create more revenue.
As much as online shoppers may crave the convenience of browsing and ordering products from their couch, that’s not all they want. Today’s buyers also desire unique in-store shopping experiences that they can’t get elsewhere. And as some have pointed out, the cost of paying rent isn’t the downside that it once was for brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, it’s now almost as expensive to run an online store. Because of the shifting economics and rapidly changing trends, many are now predicting an upswing in retail.
Invest in omnichannel marketing
With this combination of in-store and online presences, it’s never been more important to provide a true omnichannel experience for your customers. That means your marketing efforts have to be fully coordinated across your physical stores and digital marketing efforts.
The best brands are able to consistently engage with their customers across all touchpoints. How? Omnichannel marketing enables you to control your message across all channels. Instead of focusing on the channel—email, push notifications, digital ads, social media—you can focus on sending the right message to the right person at the right time.
By collecting data on your customers, you can send segmented, targeted messages offering them a discount or a new product at just the right moment. When executed effectively, omnichannel marketing can bolster your revenue both online and in-store.
This type of coordinated marketing strategy can look different depending on your ecommerce site. For example, what’s the best time to send an email that coordinates with targeted ads? We love when brands use this tactic during the cart abandonment stage, like Le Creuset does here.
With the one-two punch of a cart abandonment email and a targeted online ad to gently remind you of what they’re missing out on, it’ll be hard for your customers to not notice you.
Rest assured, the world of retail isn’t really collapsing—consumers are just spending money in new ways. Your brand can take advantage of this by building your presence online, then creating an ecommerce store that wows your customers. As your brand transitions into ecommerce, continue to reinvent and rethink your brick-and-mortar store with new experiential, in-store retail strategies.
And with a true omnichannel experience powering your marketing, your customers will come back again and again to buy. Whether they’re clicking the checkout button on their laptop or handing you their credit card at the cash register, your ecommerce business will be ready for the future of retail.