How Brick and Mortar Can Compete in a Digital World

Blog Post
May 31, 2017

Is there still a need for brick and mortar?

Tami Mohney, CMO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, posed this question at the latest meeting of the Harte Hanks Marketing Advisory Board—a provocative question, indeed, especially when asked by the CMO of a brand that heavily relies on brick and mortar stores. One might be tempted to think that the model is dying and that eventually everything will be replaced by online stores like Amazon. But if that was the case, Amazon would not be opening their own physical stores. 

The answer to Tami's question is an emphatic 'yes!' Yes, there is still a need for physical stores; they just need to evolve with changing consumer behavior.

So, how do we need to evolve?

1. Align to New Customer Behaviors and Preferences

One of the first steps is to take a big step back and better understand consumers and their preferences. How are they behaving when researching, purchasing and evaluating products? How do they want to buy? And then, as an organization, we need to align our corporate metrics to reflect these new behaviors and desires.

For example, Tami explained here why traffic driven to the brick and mortar store may no longer be an effective metric for retail marketers.



2. Connect Online and Offline

What are retail marketers to do when a consumer starts a journey online and then decides to buy in a store? How do we attribute this appropriately? How do we connect the dots between all the work that went into delivering a valuable online experience with the purchase that ultimately happened in store? While this trend is changing, many stores treat digital marketing and online activities as separate from what happens in the physical store. They have separate P&Ls and targets.

Tami, Scott Neslin, Ph.D. and Professor at Dartmouth, and Kim Whitler, Ph.D. discussed how retailers can prove that online marketing efforts translate to in-store sales and vice versa. They also talked about the importance of adding value to better connect the online and offline experience for easier attribution and better outcomes.



3. Rethink the Role of Brick and Mortar Stores

Finally, we have to change how we view physical stores. They have inherent advantages over the digital store—such as the fact that physical stores can give the consumer a real experience. They can tantalize all the senses and truly allow a consumer to be immersed in a brand.

Gabriel Mas, Director and Head of Marketing for Services & New Businesses at Samsung Electronics America, explained how Samsung has started to head down this path with the opening of the Samsung Experience Center in Manhattan—a store where you cannot buy any products. The goal of the store is for consumers to experience the best of Samsung, whether through a virtual reality rollercoaster or interacting with their new products.



The Future is Bright

The future of brick and mortar is bright—we just need to adapt to the changing environment, understand that the buyer’s journey touches multiple channels, and view the journey as a holistic process where the physical store plays a key part in the experience.

Stay tuned for additional insights from our most recent Marketing Advisory Board meeting.

You may also like to check out this article by Scott Neslin: Fostering Long-Term Customer Relationships in a Multichannel World.