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Published: 04 May 2017
Area of Law: Real Estate

Digital vs Bricks and Mortar

Clicks vs bricks: it’s the ongoing battle in the retail world. The debate continues around which is the better performing shopping conduit. Why keep going over the same ground? Why not take a different view point. What if the digital world and bricks and mortar were not in competition, or enemies, or opposing subjects? What if they weren’t competing ideas at all, but rather individually, enablers and facilitators of an enriched consumer shopping experience – a world where digital and bricks and mortar fuse?

Despite marketplace fears, digital won’t lead to the death of the bricks and mortar. In actual fact, digital presents retailers with the opportunity to enhance the shopping experience, making it more attractive for shoppers by offering them further options on products, pricing, convenience and personalisation.

For example, a customer walks into a bricks and mortar store, checks out the stock, researches the options using a smartphone while standing in the store, places an order in the store through a smartphone and collects the order right there. Consumers are buying online directly from inside the store. In this situation, the two types of shopping experience are not polar opposites or competing entities; digital is an enabler for the purchase and increasingly important in an omni channel retail environment.

There is no denying that the way people shop has changed over the years both digitally and traditionally. Digital online shopping has exploded in recent years as consumers are able to purchase virtually anything, at the click of a button. However, traditional stores have also embraced the new technological era and shops today act as a showroom integrating the in-store experience with online purchasing as consumers view and try their goods before returning home to order them online. The store plays a part in generating the sale; it’s almost a fundamental catalyst for the transaction which completes online.

As well as "showrooming" consumers often shop the other way around and undertake "webrooming" as they research online before ultimately purchasing in store. Whichever way around this is done, it is clear both channels depend on each other, they work hand in hand. The secret of building a formidable online and physical retail brand lies in building strategies that combine the convenience and ease of digital shopping with the engagement, social interaction and physical presence of bricks and mortar shopping.

Whether a business is online or in a store, the consumers shopping experience should be seamless with no differentiation between online and bricks and mortar. The two channels need to be integrated into a customer engagement strategy combining the multiple ways consumers shop into a single unified omni-channel experience. We have seen recently a number of prominent bricks and mortar stores struggling to compete with their digital counterparts. Maybe it’s time for a U-turn and for retail to return back to bricks and mortar. Retailers should perhaps remove the "versus" in the equation between digital and bricks and mortar and replace it with a "+" to create an omniscient customer experience.

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