Some brick-and-mortar merchants consider online retailers as rivals that are grabbing market share and taking customers away from offline stores. The way we see it though, it’s much healthier to learn from your online counterparts rather than to get too caught up in the rivalry.

Instead of seeing e-tailers as your nemesis, figure out what makes them successful, learn from their tactics, and find ways to apply their best practices in your store.

In this post, we’ll show you some of the things you can learn from ecommerce sites, and give examples of brick-and-mortar retailers that are thriving because of them. Check them out and see how you can put them into action in your own business:

Gather customer intel while they’re browsing your store


For years, web analytics has been a tool that only e-tailers could take advantage of. They’d track shoppers on their site, and get intel on traffic, timing, bounce rates, etc. Merchants could then use that data to enhance user experience, test out layouts and calls to action, and more.

Fast forward to the present. These analytics tools are no longer reserved for ecommerce sites. Today, brick-and-mortar retailers can get their hands on behavioral data that can help improve their stores.

In the same way that e-tailers can track user behavior and figure out the best ways to convert them, you too can now gather insights into how shoppers are browsing your physical store. In-store analytics tools such as people counters, sensors, and mobile foot traffic analytics enable you to get data on the number of people who walked in, your store’s conversion rate, dwell time, the most and least visited parts of your store, and more.

Superette for instance, one of our awesome Venders, is using Swarm in its stores to better understand its customers.  Swarm analyzes the data from people’s mobile devices as well as the store’s POS system and delivers retail intelligence that they can take action on.

This, according to James Rigden of Superette, has enabled them to improve how they staff their stores, market their products, and arrange their shop.

“It has helped out with staff rostering, timing of staff breaks, timing of job allocations, pin-pointing daily and hourly customer trends. It’s given clarity to marketing that different medians work better than other and what we do online really does filter through to the retail doors,” said James.

Personalize customer experiences


Aside from giving you the intel to improve your store, data tools can also help you personalize each shopper’s experience. Our online friends have been doing it for years. E-tailers know when someone is a returning visitor or a new customer, what products they purchased in the past, as well as which items would interest them. They could then use this information to serve up customized recommendations and offers.

Fortunately, offline retailers can do this as well. By using beacons—those cool little devices that can “talk” to your customers’ smartphones—you’ll be able to send tailored messages based on their previous behavior and location in your shop.

For instance, if someone is a returning customer, your store’s beacons could greet them with a “Welcome back!” message. Or, when they’re browsing a particular department, you can send them tailored notifications on the offers you have for relevant products.

Case in point: Tarrytown Pharmacy. This small pharmacy in Austin, TX recently partnered up with iBeacon solutions provider Shelfbucks to test out the technology in its store. Users can download the Shelfbucks app, opt-in for the service, and they’ll receive tailored offers depending on what aisle they’re in. That way, if the shopper is browsing, say, the vitamins aisle, they might receive a special offer for multivitamins or supplements.

Display ratings and reviews

Ratings and reviews are a staple on ecommerce sites. They’re proven to drive sales, build credibility, and eliminate doubt that shoppers may have. Most important, they help customers make more informed decisions. This is likely why 61% of people rely on user reviews for product information or research.

The great news is, brick-and-mortar stores can also take advantage of ratings and reviews, by incorporating them into their offline marketing collateral. Retail TouchPoints provides some excellent examples of offline retailers putting this into action. According to the site, Sephora “displays in-store digital signage with ratings and pullout quotes from online discussions about beauty products.” GNC is also doing something similar by displaying pull out customer reviews in its window displays.

See if you can find online reviews for the products that you sell. Have customers emailed you with comments? What are they saying on Facebook and Twitter? Take note of the memorable ones then show them off in your store.

Bottom Line

These are just some of the things brick and mortar stores can learn from ecommerce merchants. There’s certainly more where that came from, so be sure to keep studying your online counterparts to see how you can apply their strategies to enhance your store.

And if you have other ecommerce lessons to share to the brick-and-mortar community, leave a comment below and let us know!

Image credit: “beacons by” by Jonathan Nalder on Flickr