Now that the Holiday shopping season has come and gone, many wonder just how long the small business brick and mortar shops can continue to survive in the online shopping world. Headlines in the last few years have convinced us that online is killing brick and mortar and that Amazon and others are taking over. Guess what? This might not be true and there’s proof.

According to data from a A.T. Kearney study, over 90 percent of all retail sales are captured by retailers who have a brick-and-mortar presence. To me that makes sense because the reality of many shoppers is that nothing beats the experience of touching, smelling and feeling a physical product.

So while the media and masses continue to spread tales of an online revolution, I believe brick and mortar stores are experiencing an evolution as well, one that involves enhancing the shopping experience generations of shoppers have come to know and love.

Let’s face it, Amazon has made an impact into brick and mortar businesses and has put retailers and small businesses on the defensive. Especially in terms of pricing and convenience. However,  small business retailers now have various technologies and lots of consumer data at their disposal to fight back.  What’s more, brick and mortar offers something that online retailers do not: a sensory engaging and real customer service experience.

In fact, many e-tailers are opening up stores at an alarming rate. Why? To capture that brick and mortar customer experience.  So how can brick and mortar small businesses survive in today’s on line world?

Here are three reasons.

  1. Using Technology and an On-site Experience 

Although customers might be able to research and visit online sights to begin the shopping process, shoppers can then visit the store to get a closer look to compare and obtain a personal experience.   For example, a jewelry store or car dealership can help the customer and guide them during the shopping experience with a touch and feel experience. And while in-store, shoppers can view a web-site digitally that displays various items, they can get the best of both worlds by visiting the store.

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  1. Create a Community 

Brick-and-mortar stores can create a community with hosting in store events by inviting customers to attend parties and special events in their stores. This demonstrates an appreciation to the customer by providing personal engagement of staff with customers, sharing friendly insight or building lasting relationships. Many will give the customer a free take home gift from the event to remember that experience. This is one strategy to build customer loyalty and repeat customers for life.

Whole Foods, for example, host in-store events to educate shoppers about cooking and entertaining just before the stressful holiday season. Target has partnered with Starbucks to encourage shoppers to spend more time in its stores relaxing at the coffee bar, while other stores now have banks and other on-site amenities built in.

  1. Many Online E-tailers Can’t Listen to Your War Stories, Challenges and Make Suggestions.

Local hardware, auto parts stores or running shoe stores for example can assist customers in solving their problems quickly and help guide them in dealing with challenges or achieving the results the customer wants. I know that I personally prefer to speak to a live person in the store showing them the part I need, sharing my challenges and frustrations and having a knowledgeable employee or manager offer their advice. I also much prefer to try on a pair running shoes and seek help to make sure it is the right fit and proper shoe to meet my needs before I buy. I can’t get that same experience online.

Best of Both Worlds

With all of the technological advances available today, there is no reason why brick and mortar small businesses can’t employ Amazon-level insights inside their stores to create a better experience. Although e-commerce platforms can dominate shopper preferences, traditional brick and mortar retailers must also embrace the opportunity to re-imagine their physical stores and create a magical and customer engaging experience to gain the shoppers’ hearts and minds. Now that would be Magical! Need help? Contact me today!