The Changing Role of the Store

We all know bricks-and-mortar is not dead. However, as the online channel advances and evolves, so too must the physical store. The evolving store that we are already starting to see will pave the way, changing its role in the retail marketplace. 

What do physical stores have that online shopping doesn’t?

There is an inherent and deep-rooted trust in a physical retailer that new online ones can’t count on. Being able to return the next day, week, or month to ask questions, return items, or buy another item gives the customer security that the retailer is not going to “take the money and run.” Compounding that is trust in the product. Being able to touch, smell, and even simply see the product in real space assures the customer that the product they are being sold is the product that they are getting.

Though trust in online retailers is growing, site security concerns remains in the top 5 online shopping grievances (Big Commerce, 2018 Omni-Channel Retail Report). In addition, we see many online-only retailers such as Casper and Amazon opening physical stores, with the concept of consumer trust being a big part of it—trust in the brand, trust in the products. These stores play a new role. They act as a springboard—introducing and ushering customers into all a brand’s channels.

Off the Springboard into Omni-channel

According to Bazaarvoice’s 2018 study with more than 4.5 million data points, a whopping 45% of in-store purchases start with an online review. Furthermore, 82% of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.

In the Bazaarvoice study, it found that 50% of all e-commerce traffic is done on a mobile device. Additionally, customers who researched their purchases on a retailer’s website spend 13% more in-store (Harvard Business Review). Now that’s a nice bonus!

Finally, the same study (Harvard Business Review) found that omni-channel customers—customers who use online and in-store information and purchasing channels—spend 4% more in-store compared to online-only or in-store-only customers.

While this may seem like just a list of numbers, if you are looking carefully there is a clear takeaway: instead of separating online and in-store shopping, bricks-and-mortar stores benefit the most from having a seamless and integrated omni-channel experience prepared for their customers. Thankfully, there are a number of technologies available to help with that. Some examples include:

  • Mobile apps such as Nike’s,which allows shoppers to scan the QR code of a mannequin to see the details of all the products on it.
  • Click and Collect such as Best Buy’s allows shoppers to do all their shopping from home—doing all their research beforehand. They simply pay online and pick up their purchases in-store.
  • The cashierless checkout at Sam’s Club’s allows shoppers to scan and pay for their purchases at their own pace, letting them do their research without having to rush to checkout.


These examples barely scratch the surface of the potential that bricks-and-mortar stores still hold. The store still plays an important role in retailing; however, it’s a different kind of store we’re seeing today, with greater emphasis on integration and technology. Bricks-and-mortar is alive and well!


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