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From clicks to bricks

I hope you’ve had a great month. In this blog post I’ll be discussing the trend for some retailers to move from clicks to bricks; in other words, moving from a purely online presence and opening bricks and mortar stores too. I’ll be questioning whether pure play online retailers are heading for extinction and whether ‘clicks to bricks’ is the future of e-tail?

So much of how we work and communicate is now taking place online and retail is no exception. But we have witnessed a rising number of purely online retailers, such as Amazon, taking an unprecedented plunge to establish and expand an offline presence too.

As one of the biggest examples of this, Amazon opened its first bookstore in Seattle in 2015 and announced a potential 400 more stores to follow. Another example is the luxury British cycling retailer Rapha who opened its first retail unit in San Francisco in 2011, having previously only sold their products online. They now have a series of retail outlets – which they call ‘cycle clubs’ – all over the world. There are many more examples, but just this month another retailer known for its purely online presence, Notonthehighstreet, (who are also celebrating their 10th anniversary, as we are) has just launched a pop-up interactive shopping concept called ‘Open Door’ which ran for 3 days at Old Spitalfields Market in East London.

So what is behind this shift from purely online to a truly multichannel, online and offline model? According to the 2015 US TimeTrade survey, 85% of consumers said they preferred to shop in stores because they like to touch and feel products before they make a purchase decision. This finding is also backed up by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2015 Total Retail survey of more than 19,000 global respondents, which revealed that the physical store remains the preferred retail touch point.

As a cycle enthusiast, I know this from personal experience. Bikes can carry a hefty price tag if you’re after that ‘dream bike’. So I’ll spend plenty of time researching my options online but I’m not going to part with my hard earned cash before I’ve seen that bike up close and given it a test ride. I want to compare it alongside other models and discuss its performance with other bike nerds – both the sales staff and the other bike fanatics hanging around in store! I want to immerse myself in ‘bike talk’ and ‘bike stuff’ and really enjoy the whole experience. Oh and while I’m in there, I might just be tempted to add to my growing Lycra wardrobe! In a nutshell, that’s what a great shopping experience is all about – one that you will talk about with friends and family, and one that draws you back for more.

So, this shift we are witnessing by e-retailers is an interesting but understandable development. Some experts even predict that pure play e-retail won’t survive. For example, McKinsey & Company asserts that 80% of US retail sales will be happening instore by 2020.

So the job for online retailers is to think beyond channels. Their challenge of adding physical stores is in making the experience seamless for their consumers across both online and offline channels and to aim for ‘total retail’.

And of course our job, as retail design consultants, is to help retailers provide the best and most engaging in-store experience for their customers by creating immersive and enjoyable, brand-focused environments that delight shoppers and keep them coming back for more.

Finally, more about cycling…May has been a good month, as our team of keen cyclists, fondly named the Innovare Hopefuls, took part in the first of our 10th anniversary cycling challenges to raise money for some good causes. We’ll keep you posted on the events as they happen throughout the year. If you’d like to sponsor us, visit our Just Giving page.