Why are online stores moving to brick and mortar?

19/06/2024 20mins
Prasobh V Nair


People who shop in physical stores do so because they want to see, touch, and take products home now. The idea of meeting someone they know in the store, asking questions to salespeople, promotes the social aspect of brick-and-mortar shopping. It also offers the convenience of hopping in the car, driving to the store for that last minute item.

E-commerce To Brick And Mortar

Has the novelty of online shopping lost some of its appeals? Are e-commerce retailers, losing their market share? That is something to look at or is something else going on? Perhaps It may not be for the reason one might think.

There are some differences between the online retailer and the physical store retailer. Sometimes referred to as ‘clicks to bricks’ , these e-commerce retailers are looking to build a new kind of customer experience, building physical stores to provide more personalized and digitally connected services to their customers as well as to merge the online with hands-on experiences.  


Physical stores are situated at locations where they are easily visible and accessible, in shopping malls, on street corners, or at places where a shopper can easily walk in and shop. While shopping in these stores customers get the unique feeling that comes from being social, talking to friends, asking the salesperson questions, and handling the merchandise.

Whereas online retailers can only be found on the internet on websites where customers access the business remotely by way of a computer, smartphone, or tablet. There is no customer to salesperson conversation, one chooses the merchandise saves to cart and does the payment.


Customers in physical stores can browse through the store, find what they want to buy, and take the item to the checkout stand to purchase it. Brick-and-mortar retailers have the option to accept cash, a credit or debit card, or a handwritten check.

Whereas an e-commerce platform can only accept credit or debit cards or receive payments through services like PayPal. One thing online e-commerce retailer can do that most physical stores can't is, take cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.


B&Ms employ traditional advertising media such as TV, radio, newspaper ads, and billboards to reach out to their customers.  Some B&M's have also taken to social media to advertise.

The e-commerce advertises mostly through social media marketing and online advertising (digital marketing) which serves the online e-commerce better.

Customer Service:

The unique advantage of brick and mortar retailers have is that they can control the entire customer experience within their four walls and the one thing humans crave is interaction with other humans.   

Customer service with e-commerce retailers is not always a pleasant experience. An online customer has to request a service, through email, text or ask questions that usually takes time to fetch a response. This slackens the process of customer service. Many e-commerce retailers are beginning to realize this and have begun to offer their customers more by opening physical stores in select locations that can offer customers the same personal service experience the B&M's have been offering all along. This represents the fundamental shift in how they do business.

The New e-Commerce:

In moving to B&M, e-commerce retailers are looking to take shopping to the next level than just shopping at traditional B&Ms. They recognize the human desire to have a social experience and still shop online. A customer can have the convenience of ordering and purchasing the product online. The product is shipped to the e-commerce's physical store so that the customer can pick the purchase in person. It allows the customer a meaningful interaction that keeps them coming back. The customer can discuss the purchase with an in-store personnel which gives them the feeling of being in the sales loop.

Some e-commerce retailers are now opening what they call “guide shops,”. Shoppers can look at the items over, try them on and then order online through the guide shop for home delivery.

The trend with the e-commerce retailers going B&M is to provide the shopper with a new shopping experience, connecting the online store with B&M shopping to find the best price for their products.

One other reason is to drive incremental sales through multi-channel shopping. Customers shopping through more than one channel would spend about a third more than they would on the same brand otherwise.

One major question is ‘ What lessons can a traditional retailer learn from what e-commerce companies are doing in brick in mortar? ’. It would be more or less the shopping experience, which would imply simplifying their in-store process. If an order is placed online and picked from the store, they ensure that there is a dedicated person making it a smooth experience. If possible check customers out on handheld tablets to speed up the process.

Shops that have apps can make it easy for customers to buy something on the app while in the store and get it shipped. In this case, most of the transactions can be online whether the shopper is interacting with technology to place the order or if the store is ordering on behalf of the customer.





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