The new age of brick and mortar retail in the digital era


Megan Schneider

Made in Omaha, located on Pacific and 87th streets, has found success through strategic social media tactics. Photo by Samantha Weideman/the Gateway

The retail marketplace is undergoing a significant transformation due to the “retail apocalypse.” E-commerce is on the rise and many retail stores have closed their doors due to the hardship of competing with sales online. However, retail is still a thriving and booming business in the United States because customers desire to have an in-store experience.

Start digital, then get a physical presence
Developing an online platform is key to growing an e-commerce business from the ground up, according to Forbes. Any brand will reap the benefits of a strong social media presence in today’s business climate.

“Instagram is a platform that helps drive sales and reach new customers,” said Jennifer Penton, owner of Brick and Hoarder.

Penton started selling clothing on Depop in 2016, cross-posting her pieces on Instagram under the store name Brick and Hoarder and participating in pop-ups across Omaha. She accumulated a following of 4,000 and opened a physical location in Little Bohemia in August.

To be successful in e-commerce, a business must be offering new and diverse products on a daily basis.

Retailers must adapt to the new and ever-changing rules of the business to succeed. Today’s digital consumer knows what they want, and they demand it now. People want someone to greet them when they step in stores to shop. The importance of maintaining a conversation with customers before, during and after each sale is essential for creating an atmosphere that thrives.

Combine the forces of the storefront and a digital site
E-commerce has an impact on traditional retail from the rise of buying online to pick up in-store perks. Despite retail bankruptcies, store closings and liquidations don’t mean that buyers have traded in brick and mortar for clicks. Stores are often more profitable than e-commerce businesses. Millennials are opting to spend their time online and prefer in-store digital shopping, according to Forbes.

Forever 21 is the latest retail store to file for bankruptcy due to the “retail apocalypse,” which is how the internet has transformed consumers’ shopping habits that affect chain stores. American businesses such as Sears, Mattress Firm, Payless and Toys R Us have also filed for bankruptcy due to the struggle of trying to keep up with shoppers, according to Vox.

Give customers a reason to click
Traditional retailers are competing with online-only merchants. Walk-in traffic doesn’t exist online, but stores can generate organic traffic. Modern consumers have low attention spans, shop via mobile phone and conduct research before making a purchase. Creating a unified experience between digital channels and brick and mortar gives retailers a unique competitive advantage in the digital economy.

Made in Omaha opened its doors in October 2018 and connects artists and makers through relationships and collaborations. Social media specialist Jessica Koenig said digital platforms like Instagram make it easier for people to see items in the store online. Their digital presence is important, especially for a smaller type of store.

“Since we have a vast array of different makers and designers, they already have that presence on their social media and Instagram,” Koenig said. “So, once they repost something from us, or they share it on their story, that’s giving us a whole new pool of followers. They check out our page and are able to connect with even more different local makers.”

The stores of the future will use more technology. Mobile technology will educate customer service representatives with profiles on buying behavior, product preferences and demographics to drive more sales. An emphasis on customer service will drive loyalty in an increasingly competitive digital space. The most successful retailers will be ones who innovate by unifying their online presence along with their storefront.