What Advantages Do Digitized Brick And Mortar Have Over E-commerce
For a very long time, brick and mortar was designed for baby boomers rather than a generation influenced by technology and digital adaptability. Surrounded by a digital world, Millennials and Generation Zs expect brick and mortar to give a personalized experience and assist them like how they are royally treated online. In a makeshift move, brick and mortar is getting digitized to give an experience to match the digital world and even outrun e-commerce in some key areas. A dramatic shift in shopping behavior has created a war between brick and mortar and e-commerce to win more customers. They will go through multiple cycles before a clear winner appears.
Brick and Mortar vs E-commerce
E-commerce sites and apps collect tremendous amount of data from metrics like browsing pattern, click behavior, purchase history, flow of purchase and search patterns. A customer after spending 2-3 cycles in an e-commerce environment will start showing patterns. When the number of customers increase, these patterns will scale with more permutations and combinations — counting up for a huge level of online data.
E-commerce giants have increased their customer base significantly because of convenience in completing purchases on the fly and in just a few clicks. Customers were attracted by the accessibility and discoverability of product information, urging them to make a lifestyle shift in their shopping behavior. A change was imminent for brick and mortar to balance the huge customer shift towards e-commerce.
Mobile shopping sales have phenomenally increased over the last few years, affecting retail sales to drop globally, making it an immediate requirement for them to attract visitors back into the retail stores.
Enter Digitized Brick And Mortar
Digitized brick and mortar locations have a digital layer installed, making the perimeter connected, smarter and upgraded with technology that connects multiple locations and infrastructure. When multiple locations are connected, it creates a wider range of engagement possibilities and grouping of visitor profiles can be scaled to run marketing campaigns. When multiple physical spaces and networks like stadiums, convention centers, airports, hotels, retail stores, and taxi services (Uber/Lyft) are connected, from logistics to personalization is instantly taken care off. In this ecosystem, personalization can happen with events people are interested in to automatically calling a cab as someone is checking out of the grocery store.
Digitized brick and mortar is not a set of words often used together, but the interpretation of a digitized brick and mortar is where the entire premises or a group of locations are connected and has technology like radio transmitters, RFIDs, Beacons and Wi-Fi with internet connectivity and softwares that make the physical space smarter.
1. Location Analytics
Analytics at physical locations had always been a challenge. Manual tally counters were the only effective way to track the number of visitors, but that stopped with just the numbers. Analytics in a digitized brick and mortar ups the standard by collecting data like how many visitors walked in, who they are, what is the frequency of their visits and information like repeat visitors vs new visitors. The software that bridges the technology and the business owners, lets them manually pick and choose what data they want to collect and how each data needed to be represented.
2. Location Insights
This is a step beyond analytics. Information like which area in the physical store is where the visitors spending most time at, what category of products are they looking for more information on, gives meaningful information for business owners to analyze the pattern at physical stores. Information like, which area are they spending most time at as they walk-in can be used to make changes in the display of products and increase discoverability. After categorizing each visitor according to their visiting time, purchase characteristics, interested categories, custom offers can be pushed across to them through a native app, SMS or Email.
3. Digital Signages
When the floor goes smarter, the rest should catch up. Conventional signages could just display the information on it, but with digital signages — the content displayed becomes dynamic. To push it even further, it can even welcome customers by their name as they walk by and display specific offers to make them complete an order.
Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store, there is a large number of people who like to touch and feel the products before buying them. The biggest advantage brick and mortar has over e-commerce is that customers can experience the products hands-on before buying them. This, in fact, is one of the reasons why return percentage is much lesser in brick and mortar vs 35% product return for e-commerce. So visitors can complete the purchase by picking the product up at a physical store and needn’t wait in queue for checkout.
Internet of Things is the ultimate wild card. Imagine the entire physical location getting converted into a smart space where from racks to carts to check-out zones all becoming smart. IOT makes the physical environment connected — from phone devices, aisles, apps, cashless and no-queue checkout, carts, display racks, they can all communicate with each other. Imagine the connected world where the display racks alerts the inventory management that the products displayed are getting sold at a rate where they need to replace the products before they run out of the inventory. Or, imagine the products when picked from an aisle and dropped into a cart already getting added to the billing list — reducing the need to go to the checkout counter, and the customer can walk off the store while the payment is taken care off reducing human interaction.
Products sold offline engages two more senses — touch and olfactory senses. More the senses engaged, better the interaction with customers. Shopping has to be made fun to survive, and digitized brick and mortar is taking a huge leap towards it.
Brick and mortar and e-commerce are not two competing ideas. Digitized brick and mortar will not replace e-commerce, nor will e-commerce replace brick and mortar. They all deal with different profiles, segments and solves several needs. There are conflicting and expensive (but manageable) factors like supply chain management, having a separate CRM, logistics, and shipment that all face at the moment. While discovery is higher on E-commerce, trial, purchase, and pickup are higher on physical stores. Trends will continue to shift, but the important factor is how it is balanced between these different worlds.
Products like Proximity MX help bridge the gap between the physical world and digital world, creating a better ecosystem for brick and mortar stores to balance the game with the e-commerce world.
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