Wednesday I attended another session of the excellent Portland area PubTalk series, this one on the topic of whether brick and mortar retail is dead. Panelists included Emma Mcilroy, co-founder of Wildfang apparel for hip Tomboy types (her description, not mine), Bryce Phillips, founder of active outdoor gear purveyor evo (think skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, but much more), and Fritz Brumder, founder of brandlive – a service that “bridges the gap between physical products and digital audiences.”
Brick and Mortar is not dead but, as it has existed for centuries, is seriously wounded.
The panelists made the case that for most retail, in the face of Amazon.com and so many other online retailers, “brick and mortar” must take on a different role and function – brand ambassador.
By using their physical retail stores to explain brand identity – to immediately, visually and viscerally give customers a “this is who we are” experience, physical stores become a sales multiplier for their online analog.
Wildfang and evo both are following the Apple retail store model – the physical store is the touchpoint for customers and the media, successfully driving more traffic and sales to the online channel.
Brandlive provides a service that allows brick and mortar stores to extend – virtually – the “in store” experience to online shoppers.
The case was also made for physical stores helping to develop a brand’s personality in a way that is – currently at least – extremely difficult through online methods only.