While lauded by Jeff Bezos’ bank account and busy, budget-conscious people everywhere, the growth of e-commerce over the last two decades has raised fear among independent home furnishings retailers that their brick-and-mortar business model is on the way out. Amid panicked discussions about the death of brick-and-mortar retail, even the most optimistic retailers have found themselves scrambling for ways to stay relevant and indispensable to their customer base. Turns out, the conversation goes both ways.
On October 12, online home decor brand Serena & Lily will celebrate the grand opening of its new Pacific Palisades, CA, design shop, the online home decor brand’s ninth brick-and-mortar location to open since 2014. Wayfair, another major player in the home furnishings e-commerce space, recently announced its plans to open a physical outlet store to sell spill over merchandise from its online operation. In fact, so many other e-commerce entities are making similar moves, there’s even a fancy new term for the movement: clicks-to-bricks.
What does the fact that previously online-only shops are recognizing the importance of and moving into physical spaces mean for brick-and-mortar retailers who are there already? Furniture, Lighting & Decor reached out to business expert Jon Schallert to find out more.
“This trend is validating the reality of retail stores,” says Schallert. “Consumers enjoy going into a physical store. They want to be able to see how the products look and feel in person. These online brands are figuring out that’s is really beneficial to have a physical presence.”
But that doesn’t mean retailers should return to their brick-and-mortar business as usual. Read on for four things Schallert says traditional retailers can learn from the clicks-to-bricks trend.
Less is more
The newest Serena & Lily design shop is 2,700-square-feet. While not exactly tiny, the small-ish footprint will force the brand to choose its displays carefully. But, really, that’s the whole point.
“Small spaces can actually work to your advantage,” Schallert says. “You can really focus on displaying the products that make your showroom special, and with a smaller footprint, your rent-to-sales percentage will likely be less.”
In case you were wondering, “the perfect location” is also myth, according to Schallert. “Create a compelling destination and customers will find you,” Schallert says. If your store or showroom is interesting enough and your products and service are superior, you can be anywhere — so go ahead and take advantage of where the retail space prices are low.
Shoppers want special treatment
Many clicks-to-bricks operations exist to offer the personal service their customer can’t possibly get online, and their physical locations are staffed with personal shoppers and style guides who can help customers through the process of choosing products that are right for them. For the most part, independent home furnishings retailers already offer this level of service and more, but they shouldn’t forget to remind customers (even repeat customers) about all the benefits of buying from their store every chance they get.
Oohs and aahs = foot traffic
Clicks-to-bricks stores focus on beautiful spaces and the coolest merchandise. The idea is to get people in the door and interacting with the brand. Home furnishings retailers can use that strategy too, Schallert says. Great window displays or a fascinating vignette or conversation piece near the front doors will offer a glimpse of what your brand is all about. Ideally, a bit of showing off will catch the attention of the casual passersby who could turn into a customer down the line.
Mind your website
If the clicks-to-bricks trend tells us anything, it’s that when it comes to retail, a multi-channel model is key. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are great tools retailers can use to build their brands, but neglecting the company website or, even worse, using it solely to communicate location and contact information is a wasted opportunity.
“You’ve simply got to have a functional website and, ideally, one that customers can shop,” Schallert says. “Otherwise, your business is losing out on search engine optimization advantages as well as the ability to create and communicate your brand."
What’s your biggest takeaway from the clicks-to-bricks trend? Share with us in the comments.
Photo: Artem Bali from Pexels