Death of Brick & Mortar Retail

March 11, 2021

The brick & mortar retail market places served consumers for over 5 millennia and thrived through a multitude of pandemics far more deadly than COVID-19. It is a perceived convenience and reach of online shopping that makes people question the survival of this traditional method of CPG delivery, particularly at times when fear defines consumer experience marketing.

While overall convenience of the online shopping experience is indisputable, there are many consumer products/categories that do not easily fit into this model. They need a personal, face-to face, high touch approach of consumer experience marketing and in store sampling and tasting. Here are just a few examples:

  • Shoes, and apparel to lesser extent, are not manufactured to a high level of standards which mean that the same model shoe of the same size may not fit consumers' feet adequately. Returning them for exchange work once or twice, but if you need shoes you will likely visit a neighborhood store specializing in comfort footwear. Research shows that in fact online journeys tend to be longer than in-store.

  • Groceries, particularly new products - everybody read that the supermarket revenues and home deliveries have dramatically increased during the covid-19 scare, but that happened mostly in an explosion of demand for health care related goods and staple, well known products.

Many new grocery brands and specialty food sales nearly collapsed because they depended on consumers “discovering” them. A discovery is not a result of a search, consumers come upon new products to them and recognize their value to them after trying or tasting them during in-store sampling events

  • Furniture, mattresses and other high ticket items cannot be properly chosen without personally experiencing them. Buying an item in store gives you the chance to touch it and test it out before you buy it, ensuring that you actually want the item you're eyeing before you pull the trigger. Reading online reviews can give you a general idea of what a mattress feels like, which can help you decide which models you want to look at. However, to know how it feels to you, you have to lie on it yourself. Like furnishings, appliances have details that you can’t always see on a screen. For instance, if you’re buying a new refrigerator, seeing it in person lets you check out how sturdy the materials feel and how easy it is to open and close the drawers. You’ll also be able to tell if your hands leave smudges on the finish – something that you’ll never see in a photo of a fridge that’s just been carefully cleaned and polished.

To paraphrase Mark Twain - the news about the death of brick and mortar retail are greatly exaggerated. Innovations of e-commerce used to improve CPG experience marketing and overall customer experience are greatly appreciated by all, but humans are social animals. After vaccinations and immunity take the edge from necessity of social distancing, consumers will return in droves to the stores to taste new products, to squeeze their tomatoes and to enjoy human interactions again.