Moving From Ecommerce to Physical Retail: What You Should Know

There’s been a lot said out there about physical businesses migrating to ecommerce, in order to capitalize on the boom, but there is an opposite phenomenon happening as well. As the ecommerce giant Shopify notes, an increasing number of internet retailers are moving their wares into brick and mortar locations.

It seems counter to the way the modern world is digitizing, but that’s exactly the point: there is a certain presence and professionalism in selling in a physical space, with real human interaction. That’s not to say these retailers are ditching the ecommerce end of the equation; rather, they’re expanding to new channels. Take companies like Frank and Oak, Warby Parker and Glossier – each got their start online, and each have increased their reach on the streets.

In this article, let’s look at the reasons why you might consider migrating to physical retail, the technical steps involved in selling physically, and, finally, an of-employed strategy for testing the waters.

Legitimizing Your Business

While the sentiment is certainly changing, away from viewing internet retail as disorganized or “green”, there is still something legitimizing about anchoring in a physical space. It show that – for lack of a better term – you’ve made it.

It also allows you as a retailer to customize, control and optimize the user experience in a way that’s difficult online. The look, feel and service of the physical retail space can be a powerful sales and branding engine. Shoppers get to actually see other shoppers, and feel as though they are a part of the shared excitement – a feeling that, sadly, is impossible online.

Taking the Omni-Channel Approach

When industry writers talk about “channels”, they’re essentially talking about a method of delivering goods to the market. They include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Ecommerce
  • Physical Retail
  • Subscription Box
  • Catalogue
  • Door-to-Door

The latter two have fallen, more or less, into disuse, but the first three (among others) are still widely used. Taking an “omni-channel” approach means that you choose more than one of these methods of marketplace delivery, thereby extending your reach and visibility.

Understanding Your New Costs

Whereas moving from physical retail to ecommerce requires a relatively minor investment, going the other way around can be costly. But that’s OK: you’ve benefited from a lot of time selling with no overhead, and there are ways you can reduce costs when transferring.

For instance, consider how to choose your next business vehicle – lease the vehicle for lower monthly payments (which frees up important cash flow to supply the retail space) and find a vehicle with ample cargo space, to store extra stock if need be (thereby allowing you to rent a smaller, cheaper retail space).

Testing the Waters

A common strategy for testing the viability of a new physical retail venture is to start with popups. Once a cool way for small art projects to make limited showcases, the concept was quickly (and ubiquitously) adopted by commercial vendors. Now, popups are everywhere. While they may be a low stakes way to enter the marketplace, you might be better off just focusing your money and efforts into making a really good permanent physical store, and establishing a reputation in one place.

Ecommerce may still be booming, but if you want to get ahead of the curve, take an omni-channel approach and supplement your ecommerce business with a physical space.