The Retailer’s Dilemma: Bricks vs. Clicks in the Digital Age

October 13, 2016 Appirio

By Erin Lively

Retailers opening up shop online incited a revolution; the ability to peruse a store’s selection without the burden of putting on pants changed life as we know it. Shopaholics can indulge their addiction secretly and without fear of judgment. Students can effectively tune out their professors — learning to make investments in shoes instead of stocks. While online stores provide a wonderful solution to many problems, they are quickly becoming the nemesis of many retail execs.


Reports of surges in online sales, the abrupt extinction of video stores, and the impending disappearance of bookstores predict a bleak future for brick-and-mortar stores. The success of companies like Amazon champion the online experience. Sure enough, there is data out there that can be misinterpreted to support predictions of a brick and mortar doomsday. But the reality is that offline purchases still accounted for nearly 93 percent of all retail sales in the first quarter of 2016. The conversion rate from in-store to online purchases is not significant enough to call in the wrecking balls and bulldozers just yet.

From bricks vs. clicks to bricks and clicks

In all of the commotion, retail execs have identified the wrong rival for brick and mortar. Competition in the retail market is not a last-one-standing showdown between bricks and clicks; it’s a contest to see who can master both the online and in-store experience. For a retailer to become the true mecca of Customer Experience, both channels need to impress.

Adapting to this era of constant digital innovation can be intimidating. It seems like every day a new gadget or platform enters the scene, and we’re challenged to use them to their full potential in order to stay competitive. On top of this, it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’ll never master the digital experience like many of the rock stars in the retail industry today (think Amazon and Apple).


To all the negative Nancys out there who claim it can’t be done… I’d say that many of them are right. That said, it’s the companies willing to shake this underdog mentality that will survive and ultimately thrive. First, it takes realizing that these new tools provide the resources necessary to optimize the Customer Experience both in stores and online.

The reinvention of retail is here. Customers can choose to purchase products in the way they deem most convenient and enjoyable. The purchasing decision has become layered; customers compare competitors and channels. Customers now ask: who provides the best experience and where is the purchase made easiest? By optimizing both the offline and online experience, you’ll successfully beat competitors and provide customers with 2 equally attractive methods of buying.


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