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Guerrilla Retail: Hacking Online with Brick-and-mortar

Retail Reloaded: Digital Growth Hacks for Brick-and-mortar Shops

digital killing brick-and-mortar? infographic illustration

The death of the physical store has been greatly exaggerated.

Still, there are real challenges which brick-and-mortar operations face as e-commerce booms. The battle between online and offline, as shown by, illustrates where online sales have the advantage – and where offline stores are turning the tables.

Many successful offline retailers of the future will hack some of their online competitors’ advantages to keep their business model on top. Here are few ways you can make the most of online marketing to keep your offline business growing.

1. Reality check

The stupendous growth of online shopping grabs plenty of headlines. Yet it trails offline by a wide margin.

First, the rate of online sales growth has actually been slowing down. Gone are the wild numbers found in the first years of this millennium – with annual expansion over 20%. While recent annual increases remain impressive (from 9% to 17%) the overall trend has been downward.

On the other hand, offline sales growth has generally been slower – only a third of that shown by e-commerce. Still, with a huge head start, brick-and-mortar remains the dominant force, with 10 times the revenue of online.

The opportunities in e-commerce are obvious. Yet, only focusing online means ignoring the much larger amount of financial success.

2. More transactions

With the growth of mobile, the chance to sell anytime, anywhere entices many to focus on e-commerce.

Still, the numbers tell a different story.

On average, customers complete fewer than two dozen online transactions annually. Asia leads the way with 22 per customer, followed by North America (19) and Western Europe (18).

Now, think about your average month. How many times will you stop gas? Home essentials? Groceries? Snacks? Dinner out? Clothing? Prescriptions?

I think you get the point: Brick-and-mortar transactions vastly outnumber online. Therefore, offline sales give you more opportunities to sell.

3. Offline advantages

Most Humans are social. We like to mix and mingle – to hear each others’ voices, see each others’ expressions, and look each other in the eye.

That can be challenging to do online.

These offline consumer experience advantages are ignored far too often when developing a business strategy. Great retail customer service can place the product in the hands of the consumer before it is sold. Seeing items, feeling them, trying them on – over half of all consumers list these reasons for shopping in a store.

So why not give them what they want?

Other reasons people say they prefer the in-store experience are trust related. Forty-one percent worry the product will look different than as advertised. And nearly a quarter say the product is too valuable to risk an online transaction. Over 10% do not trust online security.

Brick-and-mortar store employees interact with the shopper and build a relationship. As a result, these trust issues fade – and your store makes the sale.

4. Turnabout is fair play

E-commerce offers clear advantages, too. Nearly 60% of people surveyed say 24/7 availability is a top reason to shop online. Other top attractions include price comparison (54%), better online prices (46%), time savings (40%), and convenience (39%).

Even so, smart brick-and-mortar retailers can cherry-pick these advantages to snag customer dollars. Solid knowledge of your customers allows you to adjust your hours to their preferences. You can offer price comparisons in-store through signage or give customers access to a workstation or provide an app. Price match removes that online advantage.

And fast, excellent service mitigates the time savings and convenience of online shopping.

Rather than giving in to the online wave, the savvy retailer turns it to his or her advantage.

5. Reaching the right consumers

The typical online shopper is younger, wealthier and into technology, right?

Not so much.

While 15 or 20 years ago that may have been true, the online market has broadened well beyond those “early adopters.” Remember those online transaction numbers? When we break them down by generation, we find Millennials only average one more transaction annually (16) than Baby Boomers (15). And those in the middle – Gen Xers – actually average more than either (19). If you think about it, that makes sense, since Gen Xers were the first generation to really get their hands into ecommerce, in its infancy. And those Gen Xers are now middle-aged and have plenty of disposable income, much of it initially generated during the earlier years of their career, when ecommerce and the dot com era was new and booming.

Consumer preference provides a better strategy for reaching the right customers. Those “tactile” shoppers who want to see and feel the product come in all age groups. Yet those numbers peak (68%) among the 25-34 crowd. The 18-24 crowd lists instant gratification as a reason to shop in-store more than any other segment. And the simplicity of in-store returns is an important brick-and-mortar draw for both those 18-24 and those over 65.

Therefore, the moral of this little story is know your customer to provide the right experience.

6. Meeting expectations

Competition is fierce across and between all channels. Retailers must learn what their customers expect – and do what it takes to excel.

Perhaps the biggest unfulfilled opportunity here for brick-and-mortar locations is the real-time promotion. Online marketers learned this long ago. Almost every online item page or shopping cart includes a few “you might also like …” items.

Furthermore, many online sites present popup coupons, special offers, and shipping breaks to nudge the customer to the “buy” button.

Most notably, 47% of consumers say they want these messages. Yet, only 7% of brick-and-mortar stores offer them through their own e-commerce sites and apps.

Also, 42% of customers want to see coupons and discounts apply automatically at the in-store checkout. Yet only 16% of retailers offer this. Another 37% wish to get the convenience of a shopping list, item locator, and store navigation on the brand’s app. Still, currently, most retailers are falling short.

Today’s shoppers walk those aisles with phones in hand. You can give them the experience they want and increase your sales at the same time – resulting in happy customers and a happy retailer!

7. Doing it all

It should be clear by now: Successful brick-and-mortar retailers of the future will be omnichannel retailers.

What does that mean?


As an example, some consumers want to research online then make the purchase in-store. Others want to look things over in-store then go home and buy online. Therefore, retailers need to provide both options.

Also, maintaining close contact with today’s consumer requires a broad, flexible, and adaptive online presence. That mobile device is your ticket to a customer relationship. Nearly 60% of global retailers have mobile phone apps allowing customers to make the purchase. The next frontiers in leveraging mobile for physical stores, like navigation, mobile-only specials, flash sales, etc., are already making an impact.

Are you ready to hack online’s advantages for your store?

Infographic source:

This topic was also covered in S.01 E.15 of Yasha Harari’s Marketing Insights Podcast.

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