4 Lessons Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Can Learn from E-Commerce Sites


Anna Johansson
Guest Contributor

For brick-and-mortar stores to remain competitive and profitable, it’s necessary to borrow a few pages from the e-commerce playbook, and doing so allows you to maximize your brand’s potential.

While e-commerce companies have a history of taking certain brick-and-mortar principles and applying them to their own business models, 2018 will be the year where we see some strategies flowing in the opposite direction.

To say that brick-and-mortar businesses are becoming obsolete would be inaccurate and shortsighted. It would, however, be accurate to say that many brick-and-mortar retailers are withering away. In almost every situation, part of the blame can be found in an unwillingness or inability to shift according to evolving marketplace demands.

If you study retailers that are successful in 2018, you’ll notice they aren’t actively fighting against e-commerce. Instead, they are taking the time to study what growing e-commerce brands are doing and looking for opportunities to integrate some of the same techniques and strategies into their businesses.

Here are a few specific lessons these retailers are learning:

1 – Simplify Store Design

As you’ve probably noticed, the current trend in e-commerce is to use simple and clean website design. Today’s customers are looking for fewer distractions and reward brands that prioritize their engagement. Estate Diamond Jewelry is a great example. Product pages like this one are clean and easy to interact with.

It’s not just an online thing, though. There’s much to be gained from simplifying your own store design. While slightly over exaggerated, these stores provide a look at what minimalism in retail store design looks like. 

2 – Upsell Whenever Possible

Upselling, the art of convincing customers to increase their purchase size, is something e-commerce businesses have become proficient at over the years.

“Amazon is a great example of successfully upselling,” e-commerce expert Caitlin Stanley admits. “The site promotes suggested goods that are aptly fitting to your purchase history, upsells you on subscription- and service-based add-ons at the cart, and reminds you when it’s time to make another purchase based off of your buying cadence.”

In brick-and-mortar retail, upselling is all about product placement and direct selling from sales staff. In terms of placement, you should group complementary products together and be strategic with the impulse purchases you offer in the checkout queue.

3 – Streamline Checkout

One of the more attractive elements of online shopping is how easy it is to purchase a product. The process of adding a product to the shopping cart, inputting information, and confirming the transaction often takes just one or two clicks. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to learn how to streamline their own checkout processes, so customers can get in and out with minimal friction.

Self-checkout has been helpful for many retailers but may not be realistic in every situation. Other retailers are finding it useful to arm sales clerks with mobile POS technology that allows them to ring up customers wherever they are in the store.

4 – Pay Attention to Security

Cyber security is crucially important to e-commerce businesses, but it’s also something that physical retailers need to think about too. Considering that most brick-and-mortar businesses store customer data and transactional histories in the cloud, an increased focus on digital security is important.

Never Stop Improving

When it’s all said and done, brick-and-mortar businesses will never become obsolete. Regardless of how much quicker, cheaper, and more efficient e-commerce becomes, there will always be a local demand for physical stores.

However, nobody is denying that demand is at an all-time low. If you want your brick-and-mortar business to remain competitive and profitable, you have to take a few lessons from the e-commerce playbook. Doing so will allow you to maximize your brand’s potential.

About the writer: Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.comForbes.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter @Number1AnnaJo and LinkedIn.

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