How Brick And Mortar Stores Can Win Against Online Retailers This Holiday

November 27, 2017

brick and mortar retail sales greener over fenceMany news outlets scrambled over the weekend to pull together every fact they could to show the retail apocalypse – a story that seems to continue to write itself.

Here are just three headlines from the past 48 hours:

  • Black Friday Online Sales Surge to $5 Billion as Shoppers Forget Stores Exist
  • Black Friday Results: Online Spending Way Up, Foot Traffic Declined
  • Black Friday Is Off to a Slow Start for Some Brick and Mortar Stores as Action Moves Online

I know there is plenty of evidence that the idea of Black Friday is waning – after all we can get great deals most any day.

And let’s be honest, there are enough stupid online retailers who don’t understand their own business model and are dumping products - at less than they can afford to - to stay in business.

Without venture capital backing, many online retailers would still just be an idea.

But would you be crowing about having a big day in your store knowing that 30-40% of what you sold that day would be returned?

I wouldn’t. I’d see that as a ticking time bomb.

The grass isn’t greener – it’s just different over the fence.

News stories like to say shopping is only about price. Seth Godin said in a post over the weekend, “The buying race is over. Amazon won. The shopping race, though, the struggle to create experiences that are worth paying for, that's just beginning.”

Indeed. Get the shopping experience right in your store, and you’re loving life.

Didn’t have a great weekend? Look in the mirror. Would you drive out of your way to experience your store?

Be honest.

Is this what you’d hear from the associates:

  • Can I help you?
  • Did you find everything OK?
  • Do you have the coupon for this?

That’s costing you. Big time.

Is it a wonder that so many retailers answer “No” on my Retail Assessment Tool (which you can take here) when asked, “Are you taking money out of your business rather than putting it in?”

Look, brick and mortar retail has the ability to change the world.

I’m serious.

And it’s necessary because...

We're losing interest in our own lives.

We’re answering a few questions in a bot and then signing up for a monthly subscription where someone else creates a box of clothes and ships it to you.

We’re having boxes of ingredients sliced and diced to assemble what someone else thinks we should have for dinner.

We're deciding what movie to watch based on someone else's thumbs up or thumbs down.

We’re giving gift cards - and most often to Amazon because well… it’s easier.

But is any of that fun?

Does shopping online give anyone a thrill like finding that perfect scarf that feels like kitten fur against your neck – one you couldn’t know felt that way if you only used your smartphone? No.

That’s because online retailers don’t mind us losing track of our own humanity...

While great brick and mortar retailers are trying to find a way to increase our humanity.

Online bots can only try to mimic humans.

And many brick and mortar retailers are willing to settle for employees who do nothing more than bots.

I’ve said it before: retail isn’t brain surgery, it’s harder.  To win against online retailers, it takes an uncompromising position of who you’ll hire in the first place, the type of retail sales training you’ll invest in them, and the rewards you’ll give them based on their performance.

Only when you focus on that will you and your employees be able to concentrate on trying harder to find what every shopper loves, not just what they came in asking for.

Do that and you’ll prove me right about brick and mortar retailing.

Here’s a story I shared a couple years ago about shopping for the perfect gift. Purchasing An Alien For Christmas Showed Why Brick And Mortar Retailing Matters.


In Sum

Brick and mortar retailers still provide a sense of wonder that online retailers can’t. The feeling that shopping with other people is good for our souls, even if it’s not convenient.

Too many shoppers have given up on finding the perfect gift.

They’ve settled into the bleary-eyed sameness of swipe left and swipe right to settle on who to date, where to eat, and what to buy.

They’ve given up choice for convenience.

Yet many upscale areas have booming shopping areas. And the reason those retail areas are booming is they provide what online can’t – a feeling. The sheer experience of being out in the world with other people.

That’s where brick and mortar retailers can excel at forming those gossamer strands of connection from one person to another.  

As that positive energy goes from one person to another in your store, it makes shopping fun.

The experience of finding something on our own, without a bot or a beacon gives us back some control over our own lives.

The people who agree with me are out there right now in your store. Unemployment is down, consumer sentiment is at a 17-yr high and the stock market is at an all-time high. Retail holiday sales are expected to rise.

Brian Field with ShopperTrak noted,"There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail, and the fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable."

You have the foot traffic right now, and you have the ability to connect when the next shopper walks through your doors.

You can choose to be a footnote in another retail closure article in January or a success story in your community.

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