The rise of the digital era has brought with it a myriad of predictions surrounding the future of brick and mortar stores, most of which are fairly grim. We’re often told that brick and mortar stores are enduring relics of a bygone and that they can’t possibly hope to compete with their digital competitors now that everybody has a smartphone in their pocket. Is there any truth to the idea that brick and mortar stores are done for?
While they’re facing a complicated uphill battle, brick and mortar stores aren’t yet consigned to the dustbins of history. Here’s how some of them are fighting back against the internet’s ever-expanding economic influence.
If you can’t beat em, join em
Perhaps the most notable thing that must be addressed when juxtaposing brick and mortar stores with their online competitors is a simple fact that they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive actors. Many contemporary brick and mortar stores have some sort of digital presence on the web, for instance, and some online retailers have lucrative partnerships with concrete, real-world partners who still exist on the pavement. Brick and mortar stores that are going to endure will learn the eternal lesson: if you can’t beat em, join em.
Just take a look at the impressive way that Walmart has responded to Amazon’s rapid takeover of countless industries; the company recently introduced an impressive grocery delivery option in an effort to repel Amazon’s digital delivery services. By the end of 2018, Walmart’s delivery service will likely have access to more than 40 percent of all American households, according to one analysis. Major brick and mortar chains will be following this strategy in droves, with most of them already started the digitization of their old operations.
Smaller brick and mortar stores may struggle to deal with the digital age, however. Local bookstores, for instance, are almost a thing of the past now that Amazon is the world’s largest book publisher. Things have gotten so crazy that Forbes recently suggested that Amazon literally replace local libraries, which caused a huge public backlash. Many critics of brick and mortar stores allege that Amazon and other digital behemoths will soon be replacing traditional options whether they want to go or not, however.
Besides launching digital operations of their own and maintaining positive reputations on the web, contemporary brick and mortar stores have a few options that can help them remain viable well into the future regardless of how quickly digital norms and technology proliferate. This has to do with the fact that are open longer hours on days like Thanksgiving and Black Friday. broadened their opening hours over the years in order to be able to compete with online businesses and are now even open on holidays. By embracing superb craftsmanship, excellent customer service, and honing out a unique niche for themselves are all strategies that brick and mortar stores are already relying upon to fight back against the digital onslaught.
How brick and mortar stores will survive
A few decades from now, when the digital revolution is essentially complete and a whole new stage of economic and social development has begun, those brick and mortar stores which remain will have embraced a few strategies that include both an IT and a real-world focus. By embracing automation, for instance, brick and mortar stores can free up their human workers to provide better customer service and personable shopping experience, which is something that will always be favored by consumers who are looking for a human element in their purchasing decisions. Similarly, collecting and protecting huge sums of data is an essential part of remaining viable in today’s market, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Only by vacuuming up huge sums of data and putting it to effective use can smaller brick and mortar stores add enough value to the shopping experience that customers will still find them worth their while. Competing with e-commerce giants isn’t easy, but the fact that these faceless digital behemoths have so much success and so many customers will necessarily blind them to the unique circumstances of individual repeat customers, who smaller brick and mortars can sink their claws into for sustainable profits. Similarly, more data and data centers that businesses can determine where they’re losing money in their daily operations, which means that they can cut back on costs in order to remain competitive against digital opponents.
The future of brick and mortar stores in the digital age will be defined by how well they define the customer experience and meet the growing expectations of the modern consumer. Digital shopping is made more convenient and cheaper by the day, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all of business. Don’t expect brick and mortar stores to entirely disappear anytime soon; by pioneering new ways of doing commerce that put people and their wants first, smaller brick and mortar stores and major corporations like Walmart alike will continue to survive and thrive well into the digital age, even as companies like Amazon continue to grow in size and scope.