Tech Guest Viewpoint: Three Retail Lessons from Clicks to Bricks

By Gregg Aamoth, POPcodes

Comparing Amazon’s new Manhattan site, which will serve as the central distribution center for its new same-day delivery service Amazon Prime Now, to a “store” is a bit of a stretch. However, given their 17-year lease, only time will tell how much impact it has in terms of brand exposure and customer experience.  
But Amazon is just one of many online retailers stepping into the “clicks-to-bricks” game. Birchbox, Bonobos, Warby Parker, and Zappos have all clued into key findings about consumer shopping preferences and trends. Research has shown that consumers who have the option of shopping both online and off are spending up to four times as much as those shopping just one channel. Of course, e-retailers are hungry to capitalize on this. 
Research also shows that opening physical stores can increase online sales. A.T. Kearney found that pure-play retailers, or companies that sell strictly online and deliver goods by courier, increase their Web sales in the regions where they open stores. Encouraging customers to interact with the brand via both channels, particularly by offering in-store pickup for online purchases, increases foot traffic, builds customer loyalty, and boosts incremental purchases. 
Zappos, which is owned by Amazon, has moved into uncharted retail territory by creating an unprecedented omnichannel shopping experience for customers. Rather than siloing the virtual and physical experiences, they are combining them, making shopping more engaging than ever. 
Here are a few lessons that retailers can learn from Amazon and Zappos building bridges from clicks to bricks:
1. Engaging the five senses is essential to customer engagement. Consumers still want to touch and test products before they purchase.  Retail stores create a sensory experience that customers can’t possibly get online. Despite its mobility and convenience, online shopping really only engages two senses: sight and sound. By encouraging customers to browse or pick up in store, retailers can capitalize on the sensory advantages of a physical store, as it gives them the opportunity to build better relationships with consumers and encourage incremental purchases.
2. Convenience is more important than ever. Zappos’ new Las Vegas location offers convenience unlike any other.  It creates the ultimate virtual and physical experience by allowing shoppers to see all of the available colors and sizes of a particular item online by simply scanning it at a kiosk or on their mobile device. 
Retailers like Zappos and Amazon are providing a glimpse into the future of fulfillment, experimenting with interactive shopping and fast or same-day delivery models. Additionally, in a combination of online and in-store shopping, retailers and consumers alike are embracing options like buy online, pick up in store. Opening physical stores will allow e-retailers to service same-day delivery at a low cost, as well as offer click-and-collect options that make fulfillment an easier process.
3. A personalized shopping experience is a priority. Amazon and Zappos have an incredible amount of insight on their customers, and that insight is being used to create a highly personalized shopping experience both online and in store. Big Data tells the retailer what brands customers prefer and the kind of shopping experience, environment and service they expect. In-store sales associates can use this data to create a highly personalized experience, which builds intimacy, inclusivity, and trust; all of which lead to customer loyalty. 
The clicks-to-bricks movement makes one thing certain: shoppers still desire to shop in stores. E-retailers like Amazon and Zappos are demonstrating that providing the best of both worlds is not impossible, but actually beneficial for retailers. I’m no fortune-teller, but I expect we’re just seeing the tip of the omnichannel iceberg heading for the retail industry.
Gregg Aamoth is the CEO and co-founder of POPcodes.