by Zoe Zorka

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Image via Unsplash

The unstoppable rise of eCommerce has dominated headlines, think pieces and the consumer purse for several years now, and if one thing is for certain, it's that the convenience and almost limitless choice online shopping offers consumers isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But there are aspects of the brand experience which no amount of UX insight or careful, keyword filled web copy can replace. The quality of connection that physical retail spaces can generate is something that online sales cannot match. Direct, meaningful and complex, the relationships we evolve with brands in the physical world tend to be deeper and more lasting than the more fleeting, price-conscious connections that some online shopping seems to thrive on. With flagship chains shutting up shop in almost every city, should physical retail be consigned to the annals of history?

The New Trend For Offline

Surprisingly, the answer is no. Time and again recently, we are seeing the titans of online retail making a bold jump into the physical arena. Amazon recently opened their second bricks-and-mortar shopfront, while brands which have only ever existed in the digital realm, such as Birchbox and Skinnydip, are now popping up in shopping centres across the globe. While eCommerce platforms can't be challenged for sheer volume of traffic, physical locations clearly still have a crucial role to play in the development of customers into much-coveted vocal brand advocates. So if your dream of owning your own business has always included a vision of your own branded space, it could still be a very smart move. Here's why…

Increase Your Marketplace Visibility

Online, the possibilities are endless and the barriers to entry are minimal. It's easy for anyone to set up their own professional looking website in a matter of minutes these days. That means there are infinite numbers of voices out there, all competing for audience attention. Standing out can be an extremely tough challenge. And although launching a physical space is not without its own difficulties, it definitely has the potential to make your brand stand out, and attract people who simply wouldn't have come across your business online. A shopfront can be customised to convey your brand values and let people experience you - from hoardings and point of sale items to the slatwall shelves and the way you display your product, right through to the in-person customer service they receive, everything speaks volumes about the values that your company has. The environment is interactive, can appeal to all five sense simultaneously, and can maximise revenues in a different way to monetizing a basket online. You gain a crucial visibility and a chance to remain in your customers mind next time they do find themselves online.

Create Experiential Marketing

In an age of pop-up ad blockers and consumers being wise to the tricks of programmatic advertising, the offline world offers the ultimate marketing opportunity. Think of the world's most recognisable brands - Apple, Starbucks, Nike et all - and you are likely to think as much of a feeling and an experience as you are a product. The spaces these brands have are carefully calculated to tell a story, and often the primary driver behind their stores is to showcase a product to a fuller extent, rather than being purely sales driven. In fact, in today's world which is focused more on building relationships, it's a great idea for fitness brands to host in-store classes or bookstores an author reading. This has the power to bring people together and offer them a new discovery - something they are then likely to share with others.