Online retail is the future — we all know that. But don’t count traditional brick and mortar stores out just yet. Physical stores haven’t lost their relevance.
Pew Research confirms, “that Americans aren’t simply abandoning traditional in-store locations. For instance, 65 percent of online shoppers indicated they generally prefer buying from physical outlets if given the choice.”
In fact, there’s still quite a bit that brick and mortars can teach online retailers, too.
We love a sensationalist story, don’t we? For years now, pundits have been screaming from the rooftops about how brick-and-mortar retail is dying. Online retail, they say, is the future. Everyone shops from their smartphones now, and before long, sites like Amazon.com will be the new norm.
As is often the case, that’s not entirely true.
While online stores have certainly taken the retail world by storm, physical stores are not going anywhere anytime soon. As a matter of fact, there’s a growing trend in retail where brick and mortar stores are augmented with online storefronts, and vice-versa.
We call it retail 2.0.
The fact that e-commerce and physical stores are starting to merge together should indicate that they have a lot more in common than you’d think. With that in mind, there are actually a few things we can learn from brick and mortars.
Focus on visual branding
For a brick and mortars, effective signage is critical. A well-designed sign draws in customers. A recognizable brand that has built loyalty keeps them coming back. The same principles can be applied to your website.
Make it eye-catching
Ensure it is memorable
Keep things visible, legible, and easy-to-understand
Consider colors and font carefully
Replicate the in-store experience online
Although e-commerce is popular, many shoppers still appear to prefer physical retail outlets. There are a number of reasons for that, but ultimately online stores can’t match viewing and handling a product in person. The lesson here is simple. Consider ways in which you can replicate the in-store experience as close as possible.
To that end:
Ensure product descriptions are well-written
Consider video product demos where possible and relevant
Feature customer reviews on product pages
Use high quality product shots
Customers Have Long Memories
Quick question. What’s the worst experience you’ve had in a store? Chances are you can share a story or two rather quickly. And that’s the thing. People tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones.
So make sure to take a customer-first approach and create a positive customer experience. Make sure the online experience isn’t a negative one. Integrate live support, fast page loading, a simple checkout process, and a favorable exchange and return policy.
A final word of advice. E-commerce and brick and mortar are not mutually exclusive. Take proven in-store strategies and learnings and apply them to your online experience. Customers will thank you for it.
This article has been edited.
Christina Coons is a professional digital marketer at Northcutt, an inbound marketing agency. She specializes in e-commerce, social media, and public relations, and spends her days helping brands succeed online. Connect with @NorthcuttHQ on Twitter.
Photo: Christina Coons; Credit: Julie Kaplan Photo