Brick & Mortar

Over the past few years there have been so many decriers and prophets foreseeing the steady decline of brick-and-mortar facilities. And while it is true that retail statistics show a decline in foot traffic, over 80% of retail purchases are still made in offline stores, and retailers that have omni-channel options are seen as having a major advantage over their peers. So why are the brick-and-mortar stores holding on? I believe it is because they are imbibing the best of all worlds. They are offering: a personal and tangible shopping experience, quality products and a human face, on the one hand, and the best that digital transformation has to offer on the other hand.

A brief flashback to a not so-short while ago. I can distinctly remember the record player in our family room. I remember holding my breath as I lowered the needle with surgical precision and waiting until the room was suddenly immersed in music. The action of summoning music had a purpose, required a minor, but dedicated effort and was met with a sense of accomplishment.

Another brief flashback to a not so-long while ago. Three weeks ago, I had an hour to spare and needed to buy a birthday gift for my husband. With an hour to kill, I wandered around the stores in my neighborhood. I came to a halt outside of a store with a record player in the window. The store owner welcomed me in and told me that the record player combines the best of old world quality and new world technology. He told me that I am not the first to come in with wide, nostalgic eyes. I bought the gift and stashed it away.

A final brief flashback. Two days ago, my husband calls me from Paris to tell me that he has bought me a gift: a record player. “We can hook it up to the speakers,” he said, “it has a USB port, and yet it still reminds me of the good old days.” I laughed, thinking about his gift hidden above the washing machine. Now I would have to get him something else. “This is what the future of shopping should look like, quality goods like what we used to have, but with upgraded tech for our convenience.”

“So we should go back to the ‘good old’ future,” I said.

“Yes,” he laughed.

The return of the record player in its upgraded form, is a wonderful metaphor for the resurgence and resilience of offline stores that are providing a contra to the online shopping experience. The focus on quality, the customer and the provision of a personable and tangible shopping experience, embodies what we knew from the past, with the convenience and streamlined technology that we continue to expect as we go up the future’s path.

In this metaphor we, the shoppers, have a role. We have accountability, choice, an active hand in the process, and a sense of accomplishment down the line. Just like a young girl gently lowering the needle, and waiting for it to hit the groove.

And when the needle comes down and that music rings out, there’s nothing like it. It fills your world.

Offline stores: want to hear OtailO’s plan for new services for a better shopper experience? Let’s talk