The New Brick-and-Mortar Must-have: a Mobile Strategy

Tue 01 December 2015 Written by Evi

Retailers, read this: buyers need something faster, more responsive in order to access the kind of information they want while in-store. A mobile strategy can help !


Written by Evi


Here’s an interesting trend that should get most brick-and-mortar businesses excited:  many “e-commerce first” websites such as Birchbox, Warby Parker, and Bonobos are opening brick-and-mortar locations to better serve their customers.


At first glance, that may seem like a negative to most already-established “real-world” retailers.  But take a moment and look at it from a different perspective.  These businesses are opening physical locations because data tells them that’s what customers want.  Let’s restate that:  customers want a physical location.  Okay, now stay with me on this.  Why did online retailers start there in the first place?  The short answer is, because it’s cheaper.  Developing and operating an online/mobile presence is less expensive than developing and operating a brick-and-mortar location.


So why is all of this good news for the existing brick-and-mortar retailers?  Because you’ve got the hard, expensive part out of the way.  You’ve already established a physical location.  And while you may feel like you’re struggling to compete with the online retailers, a small investment can easily even the playing field. 


This is because developing an online presence costs pennies on the dollar when compared with establishing a “real-world” presence.  So those online retailers who now need a physical location have to invest big to make this move.  You, on the other hand, only have to invest a fraction of that amount to create the online presence that made your digital competitors what they are.  Doesn’t feel so bad to be a brick-and-mortar retailer now does it?


Consider the eternal struggle between two of the world’s largest retailers, Walmart and Amazon.  You can read about the details in this LinkedIn article (Amazon vs. Walmart vs. You) but the summary is that Walmart is seriously cutting into Amazon’s world domination by doing two relatively simple things:  ramping up its online presence and integrating that online presence with its existing physical presence.


While your business may not be on the same scale as Walmart, the concepts and strategies they are employing to win back market share should make you sit up and take notice.  Mobile is a big piece of the customer experience these days and should not be neglected.  Even the independent, mom-and-pop coffee shop down the block can develop and execute a mobile strategy for a fraction of the cost required to operate their physical location.  Remember, this is why the online retailers went there in the first place – it was cheaper.


But what form of online presence should you choose?  Regular website?  Mobile-optimized website?  What about a mobile app?  The options can make your head swim.  But consider this, recent research suggests that websites as they have been in the past are becoming obsolete, and are evolving to be more like apps.  Raj Aggarwal, CEO of data analytics company Localytics, had this to say on the subject:


“…even mobile-optimized websites aren’t enough to meet the needs of today’s consumer.  Buyers need something faster, more responsive, and highly targeted in order to access the kind of information they want while in-store.”


Mobile apps fill this need.


The bottom line of this discussion is that a mobile strategy – the most basic manifestation being a mobile app – is the new brick-and-mortar must-have.  Developing, building, and putting these apps to work is a relatively simple process but it does take professional guidance. So don’t let this opportunity pass you by.  Follow the example of the big dogs:  develop a mobile strategy that integrates with your physical location and take back the market share the online retailers stole from you.  And remember, you’ve got the upper hand for once – the hard part’s already done.  A small investment will go a long way to putting you back on top where you belong.