When you study multichannel businesses, you see that the majority started with brick and mortar and eventually expanded into ecommerce, but that's not always the case. These days, many ecommerce entrepreneurs are taking their brands offline.
The value in brick and mortar
In case you haven't heard, Amazon is experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores. Yes, Amazon. The ecommerce giant, who has put numerous brick-and-mortar companies out of business, is now heralding in-store shopping as the future of commerce. But they aren't the only ones pursuing omnichannel strategies. Over the last few years, numerous companies have made similar moves – including brands like Casper, Warby Parker and Bonobos.
But why? That's a question Mark Walsh of The Guardian set out to answer in a recent article on the future of ecommerce. What he discovered was that the online competition is just too fierce. It's impossible to competitively bid on keywords when you're going head-to-head with massive retailers who have million-dollar advertising budgets.
For example, Walsh points to research reporting that Macy's and Nordstrom spent an estimated $6.4 million and $4 million, respectively, for paid search listings in the first quarter of 2015 alone. Very few companies can compete on this stage.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of opening a brick-and-mortar store is that it can lead to a significant lift in online sales, too. Today's customers aren't either/or shoppers. They shop in-store one day and online the next. By straddling the fence and putting one foot on each side, brands can serve every customer's needs.
4 retail store design tips
In-person shopping comes with numerous benefits, but simply opening a storefront isn't enough. In order for your company to be a successful omnichannel retailer with a lucrative brick-and-mortar presence, you have to understand a thing or two about retail store design. Much like you focus your energy on website optimization and user experience, you have to place an emphasis on how your store looks and functions.
Now, let's be clear. Retail store design isn't a topic you're going to ace in five minutes (or even five years). People spend their entire careers learning techniques and strategies for influencing shoppers.
However, here are four tips you can use to get started.
1. Perfect the storefront
The storefront is your first priority. If you don't get people in the store, then the rest of your strategies and efforts won't matter much.
In order to design and execute a flawless storefront, you need to understand who your target customer is and what motivates them to shop with you.
Are they looking for a quick experience where they can pop in and make a purchase without much effort? Or is the process of shopping actually part of the experience? Are customers already familiar with your products and know what you sell? Or do you have to take the time to educate shoppers on your products?
Your storefront should speak to your target customers and give them a reason to step inside.
2. Use wayfinding signs strategically
Few retail store design elements are as important as in-store signage. It helps people find what they're looking for and visually breaks the larger store down into individual arrangements and sections.
3. Encourage impulse purchases
Research shows that some 60 percent of shoppers succumb to spontaneous purchases on an occasional basis. Many of these impulse buys come while customers are waiting in line at the checkout counter.
For brick-and-mortar retailers, the checkout line is a huge opportunity for increasing purchases. It's why you'll commonly see retailers like TJ Maxx create long checkout queues that are lined with inexpensive, appealing products. They know that customers will throw an item or two in their baskets if they stand there long enough.
Part of your in-store design strategy needs to focus on increasing impulse buys. You can do this both at checkout and throughout the store.
4. Place popular items at the back of the store
Have you ever ordered an item from Walmart.com and selected the option to pick it up in the store? If so, then you know that you have to walk all the way to the back of the store to pick the item up. They don't do this to frustrate you. Instead, they know that you're more likely to see something you want to buy if you have to walk all the way from the front of the store to the back. Using this same strategy, you can benefit from placing popular products in the back of the store.
Be strategic in your approach
The future of commerce isn't ecommerce or brick and mortar – it's both. If you want to be successful in the years to come, you need an omnichannel strategy that recognizes the consumer desire for options and flexibility.
For brands that are currently exclusive to ecommerce, this may require you to look into establishing a physical presence. And while there's a lot that goes along with this, one of the major challenges you'll face is retail store design. Much like website optimization and online user experience, how you handle this aspect of the brick-and-mortar portion of your business will – to a large degree – determine how successful you'll be.