The hyperbole surrounding e-commerce vs. brick and mortar stores has been impossible to ignore lately. Think pieces sound the alarms for the “death” of this or that industry or physical good. LinkedIn features reams of articles about the Retail Apocalypse, and it’s easy to see why. Major retail players like Sears and Macy’s have shuttered long standing stores and declared bankruptcy. How much truth resides in all this hand-wringing? What lies at the nexus of e-commerce and brick and mortar?
To get to the bottom of it, I spoke with Brian Gracon, author of Meconomics 101. Brian has spent over twenty years helping clients — ranging from the small and local to national and international behemoths such as Walmart and Citibank — improve their business results. During that time he’s consulted on marketing and training strategies, as well as helped clients develop the skills to execute those procedures. He allowed me to pick his brain on the best method to future-proof your business.
Luckily, Brian doesn’t waste time with scaremongering. He quickly points out that, despite an overwhelming abundance of digital media, movie theaters and vinyl records have seen a resurgence in the last five years. In fact, vinyl sales specifically have had a 20% increase in sales in the last five years. “Two categories you would have declared dead five or ten years ago are staging a comeback. Things change.”
“There’s something about the experience. It’s not just baby boomers or the old folks who are going back and buying records. There’s something different about the social aspects of being in a store and talking to somebody.”
While many major institutions declare bankruptcy and close low-performing stores, other companies are thriving. How come Dollar General, Ulta Beauty, and Five Below — to name a few — can open new locations in this economic climate? Brian’s take: “This isn’t luck. It’s strategy.”
Traditional Retail Needs a New Strategy
At its heart, the “Retail Apocalypse” is an over-dramatization of the issues facing major brick and mortar stores. The root of those issues? Those stores have failed to provide something that e-commerce can’t. Brick and mortar will never beat the sheer convenience of e-commerce, but they don’t have to. Moving forwards, retail has to be about more than just “the stuff.” People can find the stuff online, and probably for cheaper. Rather, says Brian, retailers should focus on 3 facet’s of a customer’s desires:
- The desire to create or enhance self-image
- The need to be entertained
- The desire to be pampered
All of these can be executed in a brick and mortar store in a way that can’t be done online. So listen along as Brian shares his insights on how to appeal to these emotional wants of your customer, and create a future where both digital and brick and mortar play a role.