Guest Post - The Importance of Physical Retail



E-commerce may be the fastest growing retail market ever, but that’s not stopping successful online brands like Amazon, Birchbox and Warby Parker coming offline and opening physical stores. Likewise, Argos says its retail stores are its main weapon in the fight against Amazon.So why isn’t retail abandoning the physical format? Here are just some of the benefits of physical stores:


Physical space boosts visibility, offline and online

As online selling tools get simpler and cheaper every year, the barriers to e-commerce continue to fall and competition continues to rise. 12% of the world’s 100,000 highest-traffic websites are e-commerce sites, or 10% of all sites in existence[i].

Increasingly, smart brands are using physical space to boost their marketing and visibility. For the price of a billboard, brands can now rent a pop-up space of a similar size in a similar area. The store has all the same visibility, alongside being interactive, immersive and revenue-generating.

This visibility helps brands stay top of customers’ minds, both online and off. In fact, of the UK’s top 50 ecommerce brands, 30 have a high street presence[ii]. Physical presence builds recognition and familiarity, encouraging customers to choose high street brands when they browse online.


Experience is the most memorable expression of a brand

Anyone can create a website or buy advertising space, but, as Pamela Wilson of Big Brand Experience points out, “The world’s most recognisable brands offer a feeling and an experience.” Physical space brings brands to life in ways that websites or adverts cannot rival.

Experience also influences more purchasing decisions than price. CEB estimate that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience, whereas price-to-value ratio only drives 9%[iii].

It’s for these reasons that some brands, such as Samsung and Relentless, are opening spaces that solely focus on delivering great brand experiences – and deliberately sell no product.

A Sumsung experience zone, where users can try out but not buy products

Offline is great for discovery

As Stephen Godfroy, Director of Rough Trade (some of the world’s most successful record shops) says, “If you know what you want to buy, you seek it out online. If you don’t, you look in the real world.”

Physical spaces are great at introducing people to something new. Online purchases are often made when a customer has a specific product in mind and can quickly search for it. However, inspiration for projects can be hard to come by online, meaning that new or niche products can fail to get visibility. This isn’t the case offline, especially as 82% of customers buy more offline than they originally planned to[iv].

Curated products and handwritten staff reviews aid discovery at Rough Trade

More control over how customers perceive you

Some brands, such as Lush and T2, only sell their products through their own stores. By consistently controlling every aspect of the customer experience, they can boost customer perceptions of their brands and justify the premium that they charge.

Physical space also lets brands spread their message directly, without watering it down by involving others. Conference sponsorship or trade show stands can easily cost businesses tens of thousands of pounds, yet key messages can fail to get through amongst all the other competing messages.

Dedicated store space lets potential customers give their full focus to a brand, as well as potentially generating revenue and media coverage.


Physical stores create a connection

So physical space can boost sales, not just by selling direct to customers, but by educating brands about what customers want, differentiating brands, fleshing out an omnichannel ecosystem and bringing the brand to life in strong new ways.

Stores let brands connect directly, meaningfully and fully with their customers and this creates a connection that no other communication channel can compete with. Not even online.



[i] RJMetrics, June 2014
[ii] IMRG Top 50 Retailer Ranking, November 2015
[iii] CEB, ‘Challenger Selling’, 2011
[iv] TimeTrade, ‘The State of Retail 2015’, 2015



This guest post was provided by Cate Trotter,  Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends.

Insider Trends is a leading London-based retail futures agency that helps global brands create world-leading and profitable retail spaces.

It does this by clarifying what’s coming next in the world of retail, and what clients can do to get ahead of their competitors.

Read more about them here

cate headshot high res

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