Click and Mortar: The Future of Retail Shopping Experiences

By Jenn Choo

Hybrid shopping experiences intertwining in-store and digital experiences are the key to differentiating your brand in the modern, overcrowded commerce landscape. It's become a non-negotiable for retailers to have an online presence, but brands can enhance their customer experience and stand out from competition by integrating these shopping experiences.

Because, let's face it — no matter what new innovative technologies emerge the physical experience of in-person shopping just cannot be replicated digitally. The ability to feel the texture of clothes, for example, or smell perfume before purchasing, cannot be duplicated by technology. But how do you give your customers the shopping experiences they crave? Integrate the concept of "Click and Mortar" into your strategy.

What Is "Click and Mortar?"

"Click and Mortar" is a modern spin on the classic term "Brick and Mortar" used to describe a retail brand's integration of online and in-person shopping experiences.

You can argue that those who shop online are primarily interested in the convenience and ease of browsing on their device and ordering with the click of a button. And while customer experience is the crux of e-commerce success, in-store shopping provides the opportunity to truly bring the brand experience to life, enhancing the customer experience in a way that cannot be replicated with modern virtual capabilities.

Additionally, in-store shopping is often an appealing activity for shoppers; customers typically go to the physical store because they like to have the full brand experience, where they can utilize their five senses to interact with brand products which is impossible with online shopping.

But Are Brick-and-Mortar Stores Even Worth Investing In Anymore?

While websites are a brand's always-on storefront, but that doesn't mean that brick-and-mortar is a lost cause — especially when viewing it through the modern lens of "click-and-mortar".

  • 54 percent of consumers prefer brick-and-mortar shopping to any other channel, which is more than twice the number who prefer shopping via a mobile phone or computer, according to Insider Intelligence.
  • A study from Mood Media looking at consumer sentiment found that US consumers spent 11 percent more time and money in brick-and-mortar stores in 2021 than in 2020, according to Mood Media.
  • Even though people are more likely to interact with companies online, 47 percent prefer making purchases in stores, meaning brands should satisfy consumer demands across channels, according to Insider Intelligence.
  • Retailers in the U.S. have announced 4,432 store openings so far this year, compared with 1,954 store closings, according to data from Coresight Research, according to CNBC.

Are you sold on "click-and-mortar" yet? Here are a few ways to integrate your digital presence with your physical storefront (and vice versa) via a click-and-mortar retail business model.

Getting Customers in The Door

When it comes to in-store shopping, the first, and arguably biggest, feat is simply getting customers in the door. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true tactics to earn this foot traffic. First is by offering a Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store option at checkout.

Ensuring your online commerce storefront reflects your in-store stock and providing customers with the option for same day order pick up is a great way to convert e-commerce customers to in-store shoppers. Showcasing a same day pick up feature on your brand site not only provides the convenience modern consumers are looking for, but it enhances their brand experience.

Additionally, in-store pickup often leads to increased revenue for your brand, since 47 percent of consumers who engage in same day pickup end up purchasing additional products once they are in-store.

Another way to get online buyers in the door is by offering the option to return or exchange online purchases in-store. This can be more convenient for customers who don't have the time or tools to package up a return themselves, plus it can save brands the additional cost they would output for return shipping materials that they typically provide.

In-Store Kiosks

Installing kiosks throughout your brick-and-mortar store is another way to integrate your digital storefront with the in-store experience. Stores like Kohl's, for example, have kiosks that allow you to scan an item you grabbed on a rack and pull it up on their website, to see if they have another size online or at another location nearby.

Kiosks also provide open search functionality, allow customers to key in item related terms search for product locations or options. Some stores like CVS allow customers to scan their rewards card in-store to see what coupons they have available and print them for immediate use, for example.

Audio In-Store Ads

Audio in-store ads offer the perfect opportunity for advertisers to reach shoppers throughout their in-store journey. When shoppers walk into a store, they are mentally ready to make a purchase and expect to receive brand messaging, offering the perfect opportunity for advertisers to deliver welcome, non-intrusive messages that are more likely to resonate.

Not to mention, shoppers are less distracted by their mobile devices and more focused on browsing products and absorbing brand messaging when shopping in-store. Typical audio in-store ads can mention online deals, signing up for an email list for an in-store discount, and so on — all ways to further blend your digital presence with the in-store experience.

If You're Feeling Ambitious: Equip Your Store with AR/VR Experiences

Technology is still a valuable tool that brands can leverage within their in-store experiences. Implementing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies is an innovative way to stand out among competitors. AR and VR can enable customers and employees alike to make more informed purchasing decisions, such as scanning products to see availability, product specs, and maybe even reviews.

Say, for example, a customer is interested in an item, but the store doesn't have the right size on the rack. The customer can scan the barcode on the tag with their mobile device to easily pull up the online listing, where they can see if the store has their size in stock in the back or if a nearby store has it. This feature helps customers have a more autonomous shopping experience and frees employees from having to manage multiple customer questions while trying to accomplish another task like re-stocking shelves.

When it comes to augmented reality, Nike is leading the way. Nike Fit is a new feature the brand has created that scans your feet to find the right shoe fit for you using the Nike mobile app. After scanning, your size and fit information will be saved to your profile so when you go to a retail store, associates can scan your personal, in-app QR code and know exactly what size and fit shoes will be best for you.

Offer Channel-Exclusive Discounts and Rewards

Rewards, discounts, and coupons are always great ways to motivate customers to make a purchase, no matter the shopping channel. In fact, according to a recent report by Rakuten, 68 percent of shoppers will often, or always, use a shopping incentive (such as a promo, coupon, or discount code). Rewards and discounts are especially top of consumers' minds post-pandemic, with concerns of inflation impacting shopping habits.

These incentives offer the perfect opportunity for your physical and digital storefronts to collaborate. By promoting in-store only offers online, or vice versa, you can motivate typically digital shoppers to come in-store or in-store shoppers to visit your online shop. This encourages customers to explore alternate ways to shop, increasing their purchasing flexibility.

Click and Mortar is the Way of the Future

Now is the prime time for retailers to dive into a "click-and-mortar" business model, as customers increasingly travel back into stores as the pandemic quiets down. Personalization has become a must for customers and optimizing in-store shopping experiences to be highly interactive, personal, and digitally integrated will impress customers to keep them coming back for more.

There is something to be said for the in-store shopping experience, as it offers a level of interactivity and customer experience that digital experiences just cannot fulfill. Pairing the in-store past with the digital-focused now will help retailers transform their brand and customer experience for the future and beyond.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jenn Choo is the marketing director at Theorem.