Remember when merchants everywhere were racing to have an online presence? Fast-forward a few years to an e-commerce market that has become so saturated that is it exceedingly difficult for new products to stand out. The solution: a return to the traditional brick and mortar.
More than 20 US e-commerce companies are estimated to have launched a physical presence in the past year. The ability to provide a hands-on shopping experience, personally connect with customers, and offer buyers the instant gratification of walking out of the store with their item that day; opens online merchants up to a host of new revenue streams. The end-goal for any e-merchant expanding to brick and mortar should be to embrace an “omni-channel” approach, where a customer is provided a seamless experience between desktop, mobile and traditional retail.
Warby Parker is a great example of a “clicks to bricks” roadmap. In 2010, the affordable eyeglass company launched an e-commerce site that allowed customers to order multiple glasses to try at home. Users were able to return the unsuitable glasses and keep the pair they liked. The company’s popularity increased demand for a physical location. So much so that the co-founder Neil Blumenthal created a display table out of his dining room and turned a laptop into a cash register. The makeshift apartment store evolved into pop-up shops, concept stores, a mobile store on a bus and finally a flagship store in New York. Now with 31 locations, Warby Parker is valued at 1.2 billion.
Warby Parker’s success can be partially attributed to an advantage that all online retailers possess – expansive customer databases. From location to purchasing habits, customer data can pinpoint the ideal spot for a physical presence. Geography, demographics and specs of a space are also important considerations when seeking out a flagship brick and mortar location.
Equally important is to find a space that allows for a mixed-use shopping experience. Retailers who are expanding from online to brick and mortar need to enhance the e-commerce experience by identifying locations that include entertainment, residential and commercial elements and fit into the live-work-play model that many of today’s consumer are seeking. A strategic retail location should offer visitors more than one reason to be there.
It was widely predicted that online retail would bring an end to traditional brick and mortar, but what we are ending up seeing is a synergy taking shape between physical and online sales methods. While it remains commonplace for traditional merchants to venture into online retail, it is becoming more and more frequent for this transition to take place in the reverse order. As the trend continues it will be wise for those seeking a successful expansion from e-commerce to a physical presence to find a retail location that is different and unique.
About the Author
Andy Carlson is Vice President of Retail Brokerage at JLL. Based in Tampa, Andy represents national and regional retailers in their expansion in Florida and Puerto Rico. Since beginning his career in 1986, Andy has completed retail transactions in excess of 5,000,000 square feet with various retailers including anchors, Jr. boxes, small shop and lifestyle tenants.