According to recent eMarketer data, online sales in the U.S. reached $794.5 billion in 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and changed the face of digital shopping, eCommerce sales weren’t expected to reach that level until 2022.
With rapid ongoing expansion in eCommerce sales for many industries, online retail brands aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of the action. Manufacturers are starting to leverage eCommerce platforms and marketplaces to reach customers in multiple ways and boost omnichannel sales. However, to capitalize on eCommerce growth, manufacturers need to create an online presence that complements their in-store experiences—a method commonly called “brick and click.”
What is Brick-and-Click?
In the brick-and-click model, a company sells products in physical stores (bricks) and online outlets (clicks). This model is also known as click-and-mortar, clicks-and-bricks, or even WAMBAM (Web Application Meets Bricks and Mortar). For manufacturers, the model can combine direct-to-consumer (DtC) web sales with in-person sales, whether they operate a branded store location, supply major retailers, or serve consumers through other physical outlets like cafes and restaurants. Brick-and-click with DtC fulfillment can give manufacturers control over brand consistency and customer experience between channels.
The Best of Both Worlds
Even though physical retail spending has contracted, a digital screen can’t provide everything a store can. According to Astound’s 2020 consumer survey, 67% of US shoppers feel a physical store provides the best customer service experience. Many respondents also feel a store has better promotions and offers more personalized service. That’s what the “brick” side is all about. There’s no substitute for human interaction.
The “click” side of things lets your business enhance the in-store experience while expanding that branded experience to digital channels. Selling on an online marketplace like Walmart is a great option but creating your own eCommerce storefront can enable your online experience to mirror the in-store experience even more closely. A recent PMYNTS survey found 37% of consumers are interested in DtC shopping. Many respondents said they trust the brands they shop from and can find better deals by going right to the source. That means many people are looking to support the brands they love directly, rather than through giant third-party marketplaces.
An important component of the brick-and-click model is to make the most of the website to build customer relationships. For example, you can offer loyalty programs and member-exclusive promotions and products to boost sales for digital shoppers. It’s also important for the site to support social sharing and reviews to continue building those relationships. When a customer has a profile on the site, access to exclusive sales, and has written a review or two, they are much more likely to continue shopping from the manufacturer in the future.
Allow Customers to Shop However They Want
Today, people expect to be able to shop in a variety of ways. With a brick-and-click strategy, manufacturers can let customers shop however they want. For example, shoppers can compare products online and then visit their local store to get a feel for the products in person and make a purchase. Or they could go to the store and look up product information on the website once there. And if they see an item they like in the store, they can get it through the website later if they can’t make the purchase now. Customers want to be able to interact with a company directly. People feel closer to the brand when they interact through direct channels and social media. American Eagle’s intimate lifestyle brand Aerie does this well with its #AerieREAL campaign. The brand emphasizes body positivity and doesn’t retouch or airbrush any of its models, and it encourages community members to participate on social media. Its powerful campaigns have certainly helped propel its growth over the last few years—sales grew 20% in 2019 and 29% the year before.
Buying directly from brands can also increase consumer trust. Some customers are wary of gray market and counterfeit items that can pop up on marketplaces, so purchasing from the manufacturer guarantees they will receive the legitimate product. Also, the customer service experience on eCommerce marketplaces varies greatly depending on the platform and seller. If a customer has a specific question, the best place to get an answer is from the manufacturer itself.
Leverage Curbside Pickup and Ship from Store
Versatility is one of the best things about the brick-and-click model. Brands that operate their own storefronts can give people more ways to shop beyond either ordering something online or purchasing in person. The right eCommerce platform allows you to support other shopping methods like curbside pickup, ship-from-store, and ship-to-store.
Gap saw a 56% increase in curbside pickup orders in the third quarter of 2020, which helped maintain its overall sales. Even though the situation around COVID-19 will improve, many people have already formed shopping habits that will stick. According to a McKinsey survey, 40% of shoppers have tried curbside pickup and delivery for the first time during the pandemic, and 73% of those shoppers intend to continue using them after the crisis. Astound’s survey revealed a quarter of U.S. shoppers look specifically for curbside pickup.
With curbside pickup, shoppers don’t have to wait in lines to get what they need. They can also order items and pick them up that same day, which is faster than simply ordering from an online shop. And when you ship products from the nearest store to the customer, you can cut down on shipping times. Local customers can also drop off returns in-person or exchange items without having to ship them back.
Brick-and-Click Requires the Right eCommerce Platform
The most important part of the “click” side is the website, but not just any website will satisfy today’s consumers. Shoppers want sites with back-in-stock notifications, real-time inventory stock statuses, and order tracking alerts. Accomplishing that while managing your inventory between physical stores and online orders is no easy task. The right eCommerce platform will allow you to spend less time setting up and modifying website content and more time focusing on the customer experience.
You can keep customers engaged on your site with shopping carts that are always on screen instead of hidden in the corner. When they go to checkout, the entire process happens on your site instead of redirecting them to a third-party payment processor. And after they click buy, they can get order updates by email to stay up to date on delivery.
More Than the Sum of its Parts
The brick-and-click model doesn’t just add one more way for customers to buy your products; retail and B2C eCommerce channels can work together to multiply the ways customers can discover, compare, buy, return, and exchange products how they want. With the right tools, you can turn your website into a selling machine that builds your brand and supports store operations. To learn to make the most of a brick-and-click strategy for your company, reach out to an eCommerce specialist today.