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What physical retail brands can learn from pure play e-tailers


What physical retail brands can learn from pure play e-tailers

In today’s digital age, brick-and-mortar stores have the chance to evolve their user experience by learning from ecommerce [1] and offering customers a high-quality omnichannel [2] shopping journey.

Are brick-and-mortar shops dying? Looking at this study [3] conducted by Capgemini, the answer seems straightforward enough. In 2016 the number of online retail sales in the UK exceeded forecasters’ expectations by 5%, with smartphones in particular overtaking other sales channels by reaching 47% year-on-year.

This extraordinary performance entailed a yearly online spend of £133 billion in the UK ‘e-tail’ market. The digital revolution in the retail industry [4] is undeniable; in fact, according to numerous predictions it will continue to steadily grow. A report [5] from The Center of Retail Research cements this by revealing that the European online retail market expects a further growth of 13.8% in 2018.

Despite brick-and-mortar stores seeing a decline due to new customers’ shopping behaviors, physical retailers and ecommerce providers can benefit from acting as allies rather than enemies. As reported in a recent study [6] from British Land and Verdict, shoppers still enjoy visiting stores, with 81% of sales by 16-24 year-olds and 80% of sales by 25-34 year olds coming from physical shops.

Young generations are familiar with the omnichannel experience, and are likely to browse the actual store before proceeding with an online purchase.

Physical retailers can learn many valuable lessons from pure-play e-tailers in order to enhance the shopping experience of their customers and maximize the engagement potential. Here are three key examples as to how:

Create a personalized shopping experience

Personalization has huge potential for brands to drive engagement, and ultimately, sales. According to a survey [7] conducted by Connected Commerce, 62% of shoppers admit to buying more often when they receive a personalized retail experience. 40%, meanwhile, are more inclined to make purchases from retailers who tailor their offers according to their consumers’ preferences.

Since personalization is all about providing each shopper an offer that is unique and relevant to them, it is fundamental for retailers to know their customers, going beyond pure segmentation and approaching them with innovative ways to gather information.

If it’s true that e-tailers are advanced in collecting data online to achieve a high quality level of personalization, with the right technology, there’s no reason why physical retailers can’t achieve the same.

Beacon technology

iBeacon is a location-based tool that connects shoppers and stores via Bluetooth when the shopper is in close proximity to the store. This technology is able to enhance the in-store shopping experience, making it more efficient and relevant.

Shoppers receive immediate information on the products and on special offers, saving them time and money, while brands have the chance to build a bridge with their targeted shoppers, accessing their data and habits online.

This is a great opportunity for brands to engage with existing and potential customers, inviting them to visit the store and sending appropriate real-time news and promotions that suit them.

[embedded content]

Adrian Coe, co-founder of Iconeme, explains the use of beacon technology in London’s Hawes & Curtis store

Collect and display your reviews

Ecommerce has enhanced the shopping experience by making it easier, quicker and more transparent. Customers are encouraged to leave reviews of items purchased online as they’re proven to increase sales: according to a report [8] conducted by iPerceptions, 63% of shoppers prefer to buy from a website which has user reviews.

Reviews are a great tool for retailers to build credibility, trust and establish a loyal relationship with consumers. Physical retailers can also incorporate reviews and display them in- store to help shoppers eliminate any doubts in making a thoughtful decision.

Brick-and-mortar stores should be actively collecting reviews by obtaining consumer email addresses when purchases are made in-store and contacting them later on for feedback.

This action will not only lead to an increase in reviews but additionally, discussions will be formed around the brand and particular products. The ultimate goal, of course, to improve the brand’s transparency, credibility and retain customer loyalty.

Increase your in-store visibility… online

Physical retailers can ride the ecommerce revolution by using it to improve their in-store visibility and drive footfall.

With a clever and targeted campaign, brands can advertise exclusive promotions online inviting customers to discover them in-store, or offer complimentary services to be taken advantage of purely in the physical store. The click-and-collect service is a really popular initiative encouraging the customer  to visit the store with potential to generate sales during the process.

Holding an event for special guests and promotions is also an effective and successful opportunity to make loyal customers feel exclusive by helping them to  experience a unique and personalized service.

Many brands promote the click-and-collect option in store. Image by Basher Eyre [9] (cc-by-sa 2.0 [10])

Each of  these strategies aim to increase the brick-and-mortar footfall, taking advantage of the broad outreach that an online promotion has. The results, in terms of visibility and credibility, will be outstanding.

Conclusion: Open up to the omnichannel

Thanks to the digitalization of shopping, consumers are now extremely autonomous; they research different products, comparing quality and cost anywhere, anytime. However, these new habits don’t erase the need of the one-to-one personal service and knowledge provided in a physical store.

In order to satisfy the modern savvy shopper, physical retail brands need to adapt to the digital revolution, opening up to the omnichannel shopping experience. Retailers need to base their strategies on their strengths and on those exclusive services that just physical stores can offer.

Ecommerce can teach many important lessons and, above all, be a great ally in helping to increase brand awareness.

Related reading


  1. ^ learning from ecommerce (
  2. ^ omnichannel (
  3. ^ this study (
  4. ^ digital revolution in the retail industry (
  5. ^ report (
  6. ^ study (
  7. ^ survey (
  8. ^ report (
  9. ^ View profile (
  10. ^ cc-by-sa 2.0 (
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