will brick and mortar make a comeback

There’s been a massive shift to online shopping in the past year. This has people questioning the fate of brick-and-mortar shopping. Thankfully, consumer and market intelligence offers insight into this dilemma.


Let’s explore the details through these key categories:

  • Brick and mortar stores, as they sit right now
  • Consumer psychology around in-person shopping
  • What the future could hold for shopping experiences

And here are stats around the current in-store situation:

  • Just 16 retailers accounted for 73% of store closings in 2020
  • 46% of consumers said that given the choice, they prefer to shop in-person rather than online
  • Whether buying in-store or online, 87% of consumers start product searches online

The Importance of Competitive Intelligence

The State of Brick & Mortar

It’s true that we’ve seen plenty of store closures in 2020, and we may yet see more in 2021. However, while there are plenty of closings being mentioned by the news, just 16 retailers accounted for 73% of them. In fact, Direct to Consumer (DTC) retailers like Amazon, Dollar Shave Club, Casper and Warby Parker – are opening stores instead of closing them.

Let’s see if we can clear up what’s really happening in retail.

Market research allows us to explore the many segments speaking to online vs in-store shopping. Each segment is fully explorable for better understanding.


Selecting various segments gives us a bit of a confusing picture as there are equal amounts of news stories signaling the end of in-store shopping, while simultaneously saying brands are opening more brick and mortars.


However, there’s a third way shopping is being reported, one that sees the blending of both online and in-store shopping experiences and how they would complement one another:


As a brand trying to be sure they’re dotting all their i’s and crossing all their t’s – having access to news and what consumers are thinking is critical.

Social media analysis is a window to consumer thought and emotions. Below, our sentiment metrics reveal that people look favorably on in-person shopping. There is quite a large negative dip on February 8:


This dip is caused by confusion on how in-store shopping is being handled, not necessarily that they don’t approve in the option:


If a brand had seen that dip and just assumed what it meant without actually exploring, they could be making a decision based off of an incomplete picture. This social media analysis highlights the need for brands and stores to be 100% clear with what consumers can expect from them in the coming days, or they risk some very negative blow back.

Which brings up the psychology of shopping and how it plays a big role into how consumers, think, act or react.

The Psychological Response of Shopping

46% of consumers said that given the choice, they prefer to shop in person rather than online. This is connected to the fact that consumers like to view, touch and interact with the product they’re considering.

And 26% said they truly enjoy the in-person shopping experience, while 13% valued the immediate gratification an in-store experience provides in contrast to waiting for delivery.

This points us in the direction of customer wait times.

Shopping in-store isn’t synonymous with no waiting. As COVID-19 limited store occupancy and enforced social distancing, lines formed around corners with anxious consumers waiting to get in. It’s estimated that consumers spend 1 trillion hours every year waiting in line. Will this play a detrimental role to brick and morta,r if these lines become standard?

Not necessarily…

Once again, it’s not always clear-cut. Yes, standing in lines can make a person aggravated and tense, but with the right methods a brand can still succeed.

Making Wait Time Worthwhile

Take Disney, this company has mastered the art of distraction. They made the wait line at their many theme parks interactive when they began parading around Goofy or any of the Disney titans. The characters wave, snap pictures with the consumers and overall make the Disney-goers forget that their waiting.

Another example was voting day. In many parts of the US, live bands and food trucks made waiting at the polls a lot more enjoyable after a tumultuous year of heightened anxieties – providing an enjoyable time in line.


And then there’s the “elite” psychology in which waiting in a line for something coveted by millions can make a consumer feel part of the club.

You’ve seen this outside luxury stores globally whenever an exclusive bag or shoe hits the market. Savvy brands like Louis Vuitton and Patagonia are making the wait time for their customers less painful by partnering with Waitwhile, which “helps businesses turn their existing physical wait lines into virtual lines in minutes.” It saves time and eliminates frustration, allowing the brand to connect in a deeper way due to its API, which learns and stores valuable intel as it goes – making for a stronger bond between consumer and brand.

Bonding with Consumers

Though lines may be in our future, it doesn’t mean we have to be ruled by them. And part of this is understanding what makes your consumer tick so you can add useful value and a great experience.

           sentiment-word-cloud love-and-hate-instore-shopping

The Hot Goddess hates shopping in big stores because of the crowds and overstimulation – this is useful information for brands to help them promote a peaceful atmosphere, one that will ease a shopper’s nerves.

And Townie22 loves shopping in-store because the item is always there – no chance of that red sweater being on backorder. This consumer buying behavior is informative to online retail – perhaps there’s a better way to guarantee the availability, or maybe a percentage off because and item will be later than expected.

Overall, it’s 50/50 when it comes to which shopping experience will reign supreme. And perhaps it’s in the middle that we find a solution.

Creating Concepts that Merge Both Worlds

The new normal is still showing that people want to go in stores. Even though they enjoy the convenience of shopping on their phones at 2am, the personal experience of retailers that talk with the consumers and help them work out issues in real time is still desired.

However, one consideration is where the consumer journey begins and 87% of customers surveyed start their product searches online. Companies who don’t have an internet presence, may not survive 2021.

CVS is banking on brick and mortar but also has an online presence, in fact during the pandemic, online orders increased by 1,000%. They’ve also taken steps to become a one stop shop health center, adapting to the needs of 2021.

Companies will need to adapt to a new way of thinking about in-person and online shopping.

Take this small company. They offer private shopping experiences while you sip on champagne, and they also have online shopping available:


This is about having in-store and online experiences which allows retailers to gain ground with consumers. Retailers who do more than just sell products thrive, while those who do little to differentiate themselves could lose business to other competitors.

Take Casper, in 2018 they were way ahead of the game. Their concept store offered naps for a small fee where consumers had a private pod, fresh jammies and post nap coffee before buying their chosen mattress. Now they are offering a sleep channel to help consumers unwind:


They are engaging their consumers and meeting them where they’re at. Are you?

Whether you’re solely online or solely a brick-and-mortar business, it’s time to think about planting your feet firmly on both sides. Find ways to connect with consumers that will continue to bring them back again and again.

Reach out for a demo and be prepared to roll with the market, wherever they need you to be!

The Importance of Competitive Intelligence

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