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Clicks and Mortar

The death of the high street has been greatly exaggerated. Footfall in bricks and mortar retail stores has indeed dropped dramatically since the advent of online shopping, figures of how much by, of course varies depending on the news publication. But does that mean that main commercial thoroughfares are to be become an elephant’s graveyard for titanic brands?

Well not quite as some of the online titans are clearly seizing an opportunity with bricks and mortar stores. Amazon recently opened a physical bookshop in Seattle and Google opened a concession in Curry’s PC World on Tottenham Court Road in London.

For both Amazon – for which a London store is also expected – and Google, the benefits of a retail presence where customers are able to see, touch and try their physical merchandise before they buy are clear. A PwC paper, reported that 60 per cent of customers preferred to shop in-store instead of online for that very reason.

The online giants are learning new techniques from traditional brick and mortar stores, so what can brick and mortar stores learn from their online counterparts?

Standing on the shoulders of giants

As a web developer, I believe that one of the most potent arrows in an online retailer’s quiver, is web analytics.

The goals of web analytics are usually very clearly defined. Collect data related to web traffic and usage patterns. Use this information to develop some sort of Key Performance Indicator (KPI). With a series of these KPIs, formulate a strategy to achieve the retailer’s goals.

Traditional web analytics tracks a whole variety of metrics, most commonly where a user came from; what their journey was and where their journey ended. By combining this with other data sources, retailers are then able to gain insight into where they can improve, whether that is an improved user journey or more engaging content.

Taking these principles of online retail and applying it to those stores with a physical presence could produce even richer insights. You could find out the footfall of the street day-by-day, week-by-week, season-by-season and how many saw your storefront, which individuals walked in, which walked past and of those who walked in, how many completed the checkout process and were repeat visitors etc. Pretty cool stuff.

This barely scratches the surface, but the applied thinking is the same. You have many points to improve engagement with the user. Ads, social media and direct marketing to increase brand awareness and a storefront to get customers engaged. A nice in-store experience to get that shopping cart full and then finally an easy and pain free checkout process.

Many innovations have occurred in the past for different audiences. Self-service checkouts, contactless payments, in-store catalogue shopping, order and pickup and the application of data analytics can deduce which of these worked, where and for whom.

A brick-and-mortar experience doesn’t need every fancy tech solution whether past, present or future, to improve a brick-and-mortar strategy, although these might help.

Rather, the high street now has a great opportunity, with infrastructure and a presence already in place, to take advantage of the lessons that online retailers have already proved to be true. Harvest the data, then apply the creative, knowing the challenges that need overcoming, whether it’s a new store front or a store layout.