The Exciting Evolution of the Brick-and-Mortar

It is old news that technology has completely disrupted brick-and-mortars and like any change, it can make people nervous. In fact, 58% of executives at US middle-market retailers predict that brick-and-mortar-only stores are “destined for obsolescence.” A former exec at Women’s Wear Daily, Robin Lewis, went as far as to say: “We are right now in the middle of the biggest, most profound transformation in the history of retail.”

In my opinion though, it has never been such an exciting time. Today, technology is offering a whole host of new and incredible opportunities to reach today’s consumer at the exact right moment, at the exact right time like never before.

However, to keep ahead today, brands and retailers must have an incredibly strong sense of self as they are essentially in a perpetual state of metamorphosis. No longer is a retailer living solely in a storefront where a merchant can control the look and feel of the store, the products on display, the service doled out to consumers. Today, these retailers need to exist in many different forms and digital platforms. They need to be able to be served up to the right consumers in the right time. Whether that is on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram. Whether that is within an influencer’s blog post or a video from a vlogger or a product review, the brand identity must be consistent.

Brands must now also re-imagine the function of the brick-and-mortars. Consumers are purchasing online, they are reading online reviews first before purchase. 69% of consumers regularly do this in fact, more than 90% of consumers are price comparing in store with their smartphones, and more consumers believe they can get a better deal online than in store. So yes, of course brands must be digitally “buttoned-up”. They must have amazing yet simple e-commerce on their sites, they must be m-commerce optimized, they must be SEO-optimized, and they must have a strong presence on social with excellent community management and customer service and a clear brand purpose across everything.

So what then do they do with the actual physical brick-and-mortars? They become an extension of the brand experience. No longer is the brick-and-mortar the center of the brand, digital has become the center, the brick-and-mortar now acts as a complement by providing real experience — which consumers want.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few examples of brands getting this right, right now.

Samsung’s FlagShip Experience

Samsung calls their flagship experience in Manhattan, a “technology playground and cultural destination.” The goal of the store is to be the “physical manifestation” of the company’s brand.

This incredible three-story building includes a massive theater screen with 96 55-inch displays, equipped to hold streaming events, and even a “selfie stations” where visitors can see (and share) their face on the huge screen.

Sonos showcase in New York City

Sometimes you can only understand the value of a product through experience — this is especially true for smart home devices and the internet of things. To this point, Sonos has created an experience shop that, unlike Samsung, does sell products. But it also provides consumers with “listening boutiques” to try out the company’s products. The boutique rooms are meant to represent all the rooms in your home so you can experience the products to fully appreciate their value.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker’s brick-and-mortar stores don’t need to hold much inventory, because that’s not the focus of their physical retail extensions. The brick-and-mortars are instead focused on giving consumers a place to experience glasses, get eye tests and try out different frames. It is the website that is the real hub of the brand. It’s a fantastic example of a physical store that complements the digital hub.

Have a brick-and-mortar that you think is getting it right, right now? I’d love to know. Share it in your comments!

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