Bricks and Clicks: Online Shopping and Ecommerce

For brands and retailers with brick-and-mortar stores eCommerce became essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. For those who were forced to shut their doors there was no other way to reach shoppers.

Pivoting to eCommerce isn't just a temporary fix however. The growth of online sales was on the rise year-on-year long before the pandemic hit and it should be a key part of every brand's long-term strategy after life returns to normal.

The bricks and clicks business model is an ideal way to maintain a physical and online retail presence providing an excellent buying experience and choice for the consumer. This gives you an edge over eCommerce giants like Amazon and eBay!

What does bricks and clicks mean?

Simply put the bricks and clicks business model combines both physical store activity and eCommerce operations into a single sales strategy.

Bricks and clicks is also known as a 'click-and-mortar' business model. It shouldn't be confused with 'bricks to clicks' though as this term focuses primarily on eCommerce expansion rather than the integration of online and offline sales channels.

Many advantages come with combining the bricks and the clicks of your business. But brands often worry that moving online will cannibalize their in-store sales. However when done right the bricks and clicks model will help you reach a wider audience and increase conversions. Leading names like Argos Apple Disney and Walmart all follow the bricks and clicks model.

The bricks and clicks concept is usually applied to businesses with a physical presence that move online. But in some cases eCommerce stores have set up complementary brick-and-mortar locations after finding success online. Bonobos and Warby Parker are just two examples.

Why use a bricks and clicks business model?

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are coming under pressure from the eCommerce dominance of Amazon eBay and Shopify stores.

With the extra overheads that come with having a physical presence it can be difficult to beat them on price. But by combining the online and physical retail experience you can distinguish yourself with your service offering.

Here are three potential benefits of uniting your online and in-store operations:

1. Bricks and clicks provides a unified customer shopping experience

By unifying the in-store and online experience brands can create greater value and convenience for their customers.

Shoppers can benefit by checking if a product is in stock before visiting a store. Or if an item isn't available for delivery they can always see if there's one at a nearby location. Providing a unified experience across channels is a critically important aspect of the modern consumer journey.

BOPIS (Buy Online Pick-up In Store) options are a great way to combine online and offline services too. Some research even suggests that 67% of shoppers who pick up an order make additional in-store purchases.

Another study shows that 69% of in-store shoppers would rather search for a product on their phone rather than interact with a sales assistant. A click and brick business can facilitate this kind of integrated experience.

The bricks and clicks model is all about providing a seamless experience for customers. This is good for sales customer satisfaction and retention.

2. You will gain opportunities for brand growth

By enabling customers to shop wherever they want brands can attract a wider audience. Some people prefer to shop online but others still prefer the in-store experience.

Combining online and offline channels also provides opportunities for cross-promotion. Brands can use the trust they earn online to drive in-store footfall - and vice versa.

In-store shoppers can also be wowed with product displays delicate packaging and a personal touch from staff. Online-only retailers can't offer these kinds of perks so this is a great way to win over shoppers and drive more sales.

3. Omnichannel retail is the future

Omnichannel retail is becoming a basic customer expectation. Brands that don't want to get left behind need to start integrating every online sales channel into their overall retail strategy.

From Amazon and Instagram through to in-store pick-up and online orders every buying option available to shoppers should be presented on your website. Brands should also do whatever they can to create a cohesive and convenient customer experience across each platform. This will provide them with a competitive edge.

Tips for building a bricks and clicks business model

There is no magic formula for creating a smooth-running bricks and clicks business. But every brand should keep two key considerations in mind when integrating their online and offline operations.

1. Cater to your target market

By understanding your customers and their needs you can implement the most effective bricks and clicks strategy possible.

Think about the pet peeves and pain points that your target audience faces. Is there a way you can address them by combining both online and in-store services? How can you make life more convenient for them?

If you build your bricks and clicks model with this kind of thinking at its core you'll always find ways to compete with the likes of Amazon and other big brands.

For example if you sell apparel consider offering in-store returns for your online orders. You could even place a fitting room next to your order pick-up points. This way shoppers can easily return clothes that don't fit filling them with the confidence they need to convert.

A few years ago DIY retailer Home Depot saw a spike in sales when it began to offer curbside collection and in-store pick-up to its online shoppers. The hybrid service allowed customers to avoid queues delivery delays and shipping costs. It has become particularly important for shoppers who want to purchase bulky items.

However brands that sell electronics appliances and other expensive products should understand that most consumers still prefer to make their purchases in established retail stores.

With this in mind they can ensure that their online channels facilitate product research and highlight store locations.

2. Put the right Omnichannel eCommerce software in place

Once you have a customer-centric bricks and clicks model in place you need to carefully consider how to implement it. Facilitating in-store stock checks and order collection is a big bonus for customers. But it can go horribly wrong if you don't have the right infrastructure in place. Here are some key software tools to help you integrate your online and offline activities:

A real-time inventory monitoring tool

In order to facilitate online orders in-store collection and online stock checks brands will need to have accurate data on stock levels across all their locations.

Otherwise an unexpected stockout could occur. This in turn could delay deliveries and some customers may even arrive in-store to pick up something that isn't available.

Inventory monitoring tools like Digital Shelf will keep track of stock across all your sales channels to prevent these kinds of hiccups from happening.

Drive conversions with a 'Where to Buy' solution

Providing customers with the flexibility to buy your product from their favorite marketplace website or retail store is another advantage of using a bricks and clicks business model.

Using a Where to Buy solution ensures that consumers can do this from your website at a touch of a button providing a frictionless consumer journey that even the likes of Amazon can't offer.

Where to Buy technology will show consumers where your products are available to buy nearby whilst also providing the option to purchase online from online marketplaces or retailers.

When Office Depot became a bricks and clicks business its website allowed shoppers to check stock levels at their local store. This feature noticeably increased footfall.

This approach is particularly useful for stores selling products that shoppers may require without delay. Think ink cartridges light bulbs medicine and everyday CPG products.

Final thoughts

Online sales are skyrocketing but there is still a place for traditional retail stores.

While businesses should keep expanding their digital sales channels they should try to maintain their local locations too. By combining online and offline channels they can increase their overall reach and achieve a competitive edge that isn't easily copied.

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