Bridging The Brick-And-Mortar/Digital Commerce Divide

1Matthew Brogie RepslyDuring the past five years, we’ve seen countless headlines predicting brick-and-mortar retail stores will quickly become nonexistent in today’s digital world. With online services that enable home delivery of everything from your weekly groceries to new additions to your wardrobe, consumers are faced with a sea of new options when it comes to how they shop. But are brick-and-mortar stores really at risk of becoming obsolete? The answer might surprise you.

Instead of giving in to the growing popularity of online shopping and closing stores, many brands are revamping the definition of brick and mortar locations and making them a core part of the digital experience for consumers. Many major retailers are using physical stores as fulfillment centers — where consumers go to pick up their products once they’ve already shopped online and made an order. While they can find what they want online and see which stores have it, they can also receive instant gratification from picking it up the same day, rather than waiting a few days for it to arrive.

Retailers once worried customers would go to physical locations to test products only to order it elsewhere (likely online, from another retailer who might offer it cheaper). However, it seems the opposite is true. A recent study by Deloitte shows that 64% of all in-store sales by the end of 2015 will be influenced by digital and that 76% of shoppers interact with brands online before buying in store.


Even retailers who began online have opened physical stores. Birchbox opened a retail lab where in-store iPads allow shoppers to write and read reviews of products as they browse. They also use cameras and heat maps to gain insight into what products people are most attracted to. Bonobos opened try-on shops, allowing customers to make appointments to try on sizes and ultimately work with store employees to place an online order for delivery. These innovative companies are not taking away from brick-and-mortar but rather redefining what it means to have a physical store — proving there are still great benefits to being “offline.”

For a time, online shopping and in-store shopping were seen as two distinct activities, with the former bound to displace the latter in a matter of time. Now, however, we’re seeing that the digital can often not be successful without its physical counterpart. Retailers are putting a lot of time and money into trying to figure out how to provide a streamlined experience that enables consumers to interact with their brand in the same way, regardless of channel.  

Whether it be advanced content management systems that greet web site visitors with information about an in-store purchase they just made, or mobile app notifications when an online deal is happening for a product a shopper had in his or her digital “basket,” the investments continue to meet consumers where they are.  

What this also means is that retailers must ensure the in-store experience is up to brand standards as well. Field reps can serve as a critical link in connecting online and offline experiences when they are trained and held accountable for factors such as product location, display setups and inventory needs, among others. With each rep communicating and operating under the same guidelines, a brand’s look and feel in-store should — and can — mimic that of the online brand, providing consumers with a streamlined cross-channel shopping experience.


With more than 12 years of work in the mobile technology sector, Matthew Brogie has designed and implemented mobile retail execution solutions for some of the world’s largest CPG companies. His expertise is in mobile computing and retail execution best practices. Brogie currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Repsly, a company that offers a field activity management mobile software solution. 

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