Don’t Become A Cautionary Tale: Invest In Technology To Lift Your Brand Beyond Brick-And-Mortar

August 1, 2017

It’s the talk of the town in ecommerce versus brick-and-mortar matters. With Amazon revolutionizing retail expectations and extending its reach far into other verticals, consumers have increasingly chosen online shopping experiences to purchase their goods.

Then simultaneously on the macro level, we are seeing former retail mainstays like Macy’s, Radio Shack, Payless ShoeSource, Sears, and Michael Kors rapidly decrease their physical presence especially up against strong online sales headwinds. Ecommerce’s rise reflects changing times for a changing customer—and based on hundreds of store closures, there are many that believe the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores has sounded.

Retail Sales: Online Versus Brick and Mortar

It’s been nearly a decade since Internet retail has eclipsed sales closed in department stores.

But interestingly, the furniture industry’s relationship with the brick-and-mortar sales channel is different so far. This is a unique category that has been able to retain and increase the number of store units year-over-year. According to Furniture|Today, the number of units opened by top 100 retailers increased 13.3% from last year.

Retailers and consumers alike continue to see value in a furniture retail model that involves the role of ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. There are unmistakable in-store advantages that can explain this growth—including showrooms that allow shoppers to touch and feel your furniture, as well as strong regionally-driven fulfillment frameworks. The key is to bring these strengths that you already offer through to the digital front, as the best furniture retailers in the ecommerce space will be ones who see overall sales growth.

Learning From Retailers Late To The Technology Game

Especially in today’s technology game, which transforms at a mile-a-minute pace, the choices you do and don’t make could haunt your brand’s success for the long haul. As a retailer, you do not want to miss out on the key strategic pieces that will move the needle.

To see the success in the brick-and-mortar sales channel within the furniture category might deceive the eye. Looking out into other reaches of the retail universe, we’ve seen what’s happened to retailers facing their industry’s digital hurdle head-on. But while some retailers were ready to scale demanding digital heights, others did not estimate what was at stake.

J. Crew is a great example of this sort of company—a pricier retailer that ruled the apparel vertical at one point, but fell behind in an age where technology to get ahead truly mattered. Highlighted in a Wall Street Journal feature earlier this spring, J. Crew’s former CEO Mickey Drexler expressed regrets about being behind the ecommerce curve that requires tech-driven merchandising and marketing to resonate with its targeted audience.

“You cannot be successful without being obsessed with the product, obsessed with social media, and obsessed with digital,” he said. “Retail is now about all that.”

Perhaps what’s more outstanding in this story is that many retailers who are delivering excellent experiences to their shoppers right now might be blindsided by technology’s crucial role in the future. J. Crew thought it had a loyal customer base full of return shoppers—until those shoppers found a better way to buy apparel that was more in-line with how they want to shop.

Compared to fast fashion retailers like Zara who had a better understanding of how digital fuels a new way of merchandising and selling, J. Crew did not keep up with consumers’ consumption habits in this retail age. According to the Wall Street Journal article, the retailer had “still struggled as more shoppers compare prices online and buy less expensive, trendy clothes rather than a lasting wardrobe.” This deficiency, too, was amplified by the fact that other robust ecommerce operations like Amazon used algorithms to their advantage, able to “change prices by the hour based on demand.”

The technological investments that needed to happen for apparel retails should have taken place 10 years ago. And for the furniture vertical that still heavily relies on brick-and-mortar, we’re seeing that better shopping experiences, spurred by technology, are happening now.

To get ahead, furniture retailers need to infuse accurate data, AI-driven shopper segmenting, and personalized merchandising tools into their shopping experiences to stimulate sales. It’s now time to adapt to the furniture shopper’s next move.

If J. Crew’s demise is a cautionary tale, its takeaway message is to equally value how your customer is shopping now and how they will want to shop down the line. There’s a lot to learn from the retailers who have not been able to see beyond the necessities of the moment—even in a brick-and-mortar retail environment where furniture stands out as different.

To jump from Version 1.0 to Version 2.0 of your brand, consider Blueport a world-class option to create a customized omnichannel retail vision that will help drive more sales across all your channels. By layering Blueport’s ecommerce technology on top of your brick-and-mortar infrastructure, you will be able to scale the demands of new retail heights.