Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the growth of physical retail.  Multiple brands from a broad group of categories have announced growth initiatives, including Toys R Us, Vuori, Ollie’s, and even Netflix.  Why are we seeing brands re-commit to brick-and-mortar stores at a time when e-commerce continues to take share?   

As much as we all love the convenience, impulsive thrill, and comparison shopping of e-commerce, there are clear advantages and trends that make physical stores part of the future (and not just a pick-up location).   Too often, physical retail is about “what” and “how many”.  Those questions will get you into trouble without a clear strategy on “why”.   

Here’s a thought:  Make physical retail a place to experience your brand in real life. 

If you are opening stores, or even just thinking about it, ask yourself these 4 important questions: 

  1. Does a physical store give you a competitive edge in the purchase cycle of your brand? 

Can a physical presence help in the customer journey?  We all know that your customers are more than likely moving along other competitors’ processes toward a sale.  A physical location may offer the opportunity to schedule a demo, sample products, or connect with a real person.  That could be the difference in your success. 

  1. Can your brand benefit from a community of engaged fans seeing each other? 

Never underestimate the communal aspects of brand association.  Seeing and hearing people with the same passion creates buzz and ultimately fuels engagement.  A physical store creates a space to allow that to happen.   

  1. Is there a unique element of brand experience only possible in a physical store?   

There is something special about being able to see a product in action, hearing an enthusiastic demo, tasting a bold flavor, or enjoying a memorable experience.   AI can’t generate these things.   A physical location extends the network of customer traffic and allows you to bring your brand to life.   On top of this, there may be a certain “way” of shopping that can only be done live and in-person.  Consumers love to dig, to find treasures and deals.  This is done so much better in person.    

  1. Do we have the resources to make it work?   

We’re not talking about real estate, capital, or human resources.  If you are opening stores, invest in driving traffic to a grand opening event.  Research shows stores that have a strong event average 50% more sales for the rest of the year compared to a store that has a low-budget soft opening.  Invite people into your world from Day One. Invest in building momentum from the very start.  You can work with companies like The Zest Lab to make it happen nationally, regionally, or by store.   

Physical retail never died.  Like everything else, it evolves.  If you truly think through the reasons why you want to expand, you can focus on actions to make it work for the entire brand.