Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t dead: They just need a digital makeover

2017 has been a tough year for retail. Over 300 retail companies have filed for bankruptcy since January, while others have seen increased store closings and struggles on the stock market.

Most blame the rise of online shopping for the “demise” of brick and mortar retailers. But the truth is in-store shopping is far from dead: 94 percent of total retail sales are still generated in stores, and younger generations prefer to shop in person instead of online.

Today’s headlines and sound bites may pit e-commerce against brick and mortar, but the two don’t have to be rivals. In fact, they should be brought more closely together.

Digital meets physical

Today, shopping has become a hybrid model — a continuous back-and-forth between stores and devices. Half of consumers browse in stores before ultimately buying online. Meanwhile, two-thirds of consumers conduct research online before purchasing in stores. As digital and physical commerce continue to converge, the lines between them are blurring.

All of this hasn’t been lost on the most successful retailers, who are quickly realizing they can’t have a strong physical presence without a digital one. Just as some brands are closing their doors, many are also taking their businesses online.

Walmart is a prime example: In the past two years, the retail giant purchased e-commerce company and online fashion brand Bonobos, signaling an important shift into online retail while maintaining a strong physical presence. Meanwhile, Amazon made moves in the opposite direction: By acquiring Whole Foods, the world’s largest e-commerce company sent a signal that brick and mortar stores are still in the game.

These trends are strong signs that the physical and digital worlds of retail aren’t at odds with each other; they rely on each other for survival.

Breathing life back into brick and mortar

But even though the physical store isn’t dead, it’s clear it needs a makeover. After all, sales are down and stores across the country are closing. Here are two ways advertisers can revive brick and mortar stores by driving foot traffic and increasing sales.

1. Invite consumers in for a visit

How can brands entice consumers to make the trip into their stores?

With proximity targeting, brands can serve ads to consumers within a certain distance of a store location in order to drive foot traffic. To increase the chance such ads will be effective, brands can tell passersby about an in-store sale or give them a custom-made coupon to redeem in person. For instance, a beauty brand can serve ads to women who walk within 100 feet of a pharmacy, inviting them to come inside for a free trial of a new face cream or 15 percent off their next in-store purchase. When retailers get creative with proximity targeting, they’ll see increased foot traffic and greater customer engagement.

2. Engage shoppers in stores

Once brands manage to get consumers into their brick and mortar locations, their work isn’t over: In order to see more in-store conversions and sales, they need to make sure shoppers feel satisfied while browsing.

Macy’s and Walgreens are among the many brands that have adopted beacon technology to enhance the customer experience — with fantastic results. With beacon-triggered content, retailers send shoppers personalized messages based on a number of custom attributes. For example, using data about which aisle or section the shopper spends the most time in, the brand can offer personalized product recommendations. Advertisers can also use beacon technology to keep track of how often shoppers visit, providing loyalty promotions and thank-you messages accordingly.

Advertisers that adopt these two approaches won’t just enable their physical stores to survive; by bringing their brick and mortar stores to life with an effective digital strategy, brands will see their businesses thrive with greater customer engagement and increased sales.

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