Gearing Up For The Reverse Shift From Online To Physical Stores

0aaaTrey Simonton Accruent

While the tidal wave of e-Commerce continues to take over retail, it’s easy to overlook the churning rip currents of digitally based companies making the opposite move to brick-and-mortar from online retail.

E-Commerce companies want and need those physical stores to meet the needs of customers so they can try on, touch and feel products before committing. Consumers still want immediate access to the goods, or a convenient way to return unwanted purchases.

It’s also becoming much more expensive to get attention online. Digital customer acquisition costs are going up, and physical stores can often provide a less expensive or more effective means of reaching certain market segments.


But shifting from virtual to physical stores presents an interesting set of challenges.

E-Commerce companies are experts at getting customers to their sites and optimizing their online experience towards purchasing. Of course, the same general strategies hold true in the world of physical stores — one must get traffic and then convert customers once they’re in the store. However, e-Commerce companies that have mastered heat maps, digital conversion optimization, recommendation engines, ad retargeting and abandoned cart reduction schemes aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with the related, but very different, factors involved in physical stores.

E-Commerce operators may not be thrilled about adding the complexities of managing physical assets to their businesses, and they often lack the skillsets to manage all the factors involved in maintaining a cohesive experience for their online and offline customers.

The good news is that there are tools that online retailers can readily apply for this shift whether creating a store-within-a-store, pop-ups, mall locations or standalone locations. Investing in tools like these can give those moving into physical stores greater control, flexibility, responsiveness and faster financial returns on their investments. The benefits can be seen in optimized store openings and closings, lease contract negotiations and preservation of capital and expense spending.

So, for e-Commerce companies planning such a move, or those in-process who might still feel ill-equipped, consider seven different business challenges that can be optimized for the following processes:

1. Select Sites

The old adage is true — retail wins or loses based on location, location, location. But how do newcomers select the locations that drive the most revenue at the most affordable cost? Site planning, evaluation and selection tools can help you select locations more quickly, and as a result, increase revenue weeks. The best tools take advantage of automated data collection from systems as well as outside industry sources, so you can better evaluate and negotiate to secure locations that drive growth while preserving your capital.

2. Manage Construction

Once you’ve committed to having a physical store presence, there are major construction projects to complete the build-out and get the stores open. Construction-oriented project management tools can enhance the capital improvement process, get stores open on time and within budget, and maintain quality controls so the new stores consistently deliver on the brand promise.

3. Track Leases

As much as retail chains aim for consistent advantage in their real estate and equipment leases, as locations grow, so does complexity. A strong lease management package can help keep those variables under control and ensure brick-and-mortar stores comply with new FASB/IASB rules to automate showing leased assets on the balance sheet.

4. Maintain

Once open, sustaining and growing revenue depends on adequate store maintenance. IoT (Internet of Things) remote monitoring can automatically identify facility and equipment maintenance problems, take the guesswork out of alarm responses, predict equipment failure, schedule routine maintenance based on asset condition, then automatically produce work orders in your Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS).

5. Manage Energy

E-Commerce companies that manage their own hosting understand energy costs, but moving to physical stores means an entirely new set of factors. The most efficient property managers no longer rely on fixed schedules of opening and closing times. Energy costs can be reduced by 10%, 20% or more by remotely monitoring and controlling HVAC and lighting to optimize customer comfort, safety, changing weather conditions and more.

6. Audit Facilities

For chain stores that are operating, how do you make sure they are delivering consistent branding, have the right facility conditions, comply with safety requirements and are making the prescribed enhancements? Facility audit software, run from a tablet, can easily keep information up to date and enable you to manage those assets across the complete lifecycle.

7. Plan Capital

Rolling out a single store or a chain of physical retail stores can consume a lot of capital in a manner unfamiliar to e-Commerce players. Capital planning tools can help keep facility expansion and improvement investments aligned with your overall mission. The right tool can help you centralize information, analyze your options and create rational and defensible budgets for capital spending.

Capabilities like this can help online retailers have as much control of their physical stores as they do in e-Commerce. Whether you’re building out standalone stores, stores within malls, or stores-within-stores, you can be in control of all aspects of your retailer lifecycle. This can help you satisfy your customers quickly and reduce the revenue weeks lost to delays between committing to a strategy and going live. Execute these seven tips because it takes more than good luck to win in brick-and-mortar retail.


Trey Simonton is regional vice president responsible for Accruent’s customer relationships with government and commercial mid-market and enterprise companies across North America. Simonton has expertise in managing enterprise accounts, business partnerships and management processes.

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