Clicks to bricks: How companies use online shopping to bolster in-store sales this holiday


Retailers expect big sales numbers online this holiday as more shoppers use the internet to conduct transactions, but that doesn’t mean brick-and-mortar stores will be empty.

Here’s why the clicks to bricks movement is helping in-store retail

With the spate of store closings this year alone, it doesn’t take an economist to see that brick-and-mortar sites need to calibrate their businesses and boost their online operations, where applicable. On the other hand, there are clear indications that many retailers are also using their digital footprints to increase foot traffic at their physical stores. And many legacy stores are actually building more locations, showing that in essence, the “click to bricks” movement — lure online to buy, get in-store to try — is gaining a foothold.

Instead of overemphasizing online sales, many stores are using the power of the internet to drill down on consumer insights — analytics that tell them about customer likes and dislikes. Traditional retailers are also using their websites to offer incentives for customers to visit their stores.

Buying online or purchasing in-store: What’s cheaper?

Contrary to popular belief, consumers typically get better value and traditional retailers make more money with in-store purchases. With all the talk about the ease of shopping online, consumers in many cases are being charged a higher price for the same goods and services because they are saddled with a shipping and handling fee. Read about Walmart’s experiment here.

Money expert Clark Howard calls it a ”convenience fee,” meaning that for facilitating the convenience of being able to buy online, stores pass charges on to digital shoppers.

Also, if an item is returned, retailers typically have to eat those charges, further cutting into their bottom lines. That ‘ and the chance to attract any of your five senses to other products via experiential shopping ‘ is part of the reason why they want to get you into their stores.

The clicks to bricks movement can be illustrated best if we look at what’s happening with two of the nation’s top retailers. Amazon is absolutely killing it online but is also making a major play into physical sites by opening brick-and-mortar book stores in a slew of states. Add that to the fact that earlier this year they bought Whole Foods, the brick-and-mortar grocer.

Walmart is following a similar tactic: It announced in 2016 that it was closing hundreds of stores, but said at the beginning of this year that it was opening 59 locations around the United States and even more internationally, part of $6.8 billion in capital investments. To lure shoppers inside those locations, the company introduced Pickup Discount, which offers deals for items bought online but picked up at the stores.

Underscoring the success of that strategy, Home Depot reported that close to half of its online sales were picked up in-store, according to Forbes. The point is that stores are using online means to boost in-store experiences.

Also, conventional wisdom said that older people would be the only ones propping up legacy retailers as millennials were opting to do all their shopping online — but that’s not necessarily true.


“The retail industry has been operating on the outdated assumption that boomers are shopping for deals primarily in-store and millennials are searching for deals mostly online,” Greg Petro, president and CEO of First Insight, told ABC News. “But the behavior of these two generations is evolving.”

RELATED: Why Walmart is charging more online

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