How to Succeed at Bricks-and-Clicks: An Omnichannel Guide for Retailers

It seems the retail industry is always coming up with a new buzzword. “Customer experience” is now commonplace, and “omnichannel” has become a way of life for retailers. The latest? “Bricks-and-clicks.” 

So, what does bricks-and-clicks mean—and, more importantly, why should you care? It could be the difference between blowing away your competition and shutting your doors for good. 

What are bricks-and-clicks?

Bricks-and-clicks businesses exist both online and in person. Essentially, customers can shop via “bricks” — the brick-and-mortar store — and “clicks,” which is some sort of ecommerce component. Many times, customers shop with a retailer both via bricks and clicks, which is where the phrase “bricks-and-clicks” comes from. 

Despite the separate channels, these businesses operate as a single entity, often complementing one another in strategic and intentional ways. Coincidentally, omnichannel and bricks-and-clicks essentially mean the same thing. 

Why is it important to become a bricks-and-clicks retailer?

Consumers have been moving away from a linear path to purchase more every year. And as technology presents more ways to do our shopping, retail businesses have to adapt if they want to stay relevant. 

It’s no longer enough to simply be present in person. In the U.S., 2020 has seen the first dip in in-store sales in a while, accounting for an estimated $4.89 trillion, compared to $5.47 trillion the year prior. However, in-store purchases are still expected to be nearly three-quarters of 2020’s total retail sales

Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and ship-from-store each account for 6% of total retail sales. And ecommerce sales continue to grow—amounting to an estimated $3.74 trillion in 2020. In 2019, more than three-quarters of Canadian holiday shoppers who visited a store had also researched the purchase online or via a mobile app. 

Even the longest-standing brick-and-mortar businesses are adopting ecommerce tactics. 

And it’s more important now than ever before, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting every consumer across the globe. It’s created a sense of urgency, and rapidly changing governmental guidelines are forcing retailers to be nimble in their operations and business models. Curbside pickup, no-contact delivery, and expedited shipping have become the norm in the current economy. 

Despite online’s growth, traditional retail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In Canada, 60% of 2019’s holiday shoppers purchased offline. The main reason is so they can see the product in-person for themselves — even after extensive online research. This makes them feel more confident in the purchase. 

Customers also benefit from added convenience when a business goes bricks-and-clicks. They have more fulfillment options, and can visit the store on their schedule — or not at all. Essentially, you meet customers where they’re at, and anytime you can reduce friction in the buyer journey is a win for your bottom line. 

For retailers, online adds another layer of insights where you can learn more about your customers. It’s typically easier to track user behavior online compared to in-store (though tech is advancing this every day), so you can learn things you weren’t able to before. Plus, if you notice a lot of web traffic from a specific geographic location, this could signify a retail expansion with a new store.

How to become a bricks-and-clicks retailer

Choose your channel(s)

The offline channel is more obvious, but there are a number of online channels to choose from, each with its own set of considerations: 

  • Online store: Perhaps the most obvious option, you can launch your own branded online store. There are many platforms that do this, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce, among others. You can also build a companion mobile app to allow customers to shop more easily from their phones. 
  • Social media: Social media is more than an engagement and awareness-building tool—Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are now offering built-in commerce features. From 2017 to 2018, the amount of retailers using social commerce jumped from 17% to 33%.
  • Third-party marketplaces: Rather than or in addition to your own online store, you can also list your products on ecommerce marketplaces. The advantage here is that they already have a loyal customer base, so it’s a good brand awareness strategy. Marketplaces to consider include Amazon, eBay, Houzz, Walmart, Etsy, Google Express, Alibaba, and more. 
  • Comparison shopping engines: These platforms work similarly to third-party marketplaces, except the consumer experience is more focused on direct product comparisons. You can get your products on these sites via Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Bing Shopping Campaigns. 

When choosing the channels you want to use, think about your customers and how they shop online. If you’re serving a Gen Z audience, social media could be the way to go. But if you have a small email list and are looking to attract new customers from across the country, you might want to consider a third-party marketplace or comparison shopping engine. 

Vend Tip

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Set up your backend operations

Once you’ve chosen which channel(s) makes sense for your bricks-and-clicks expansion, it’s time to set up the logistics. For starters, it’s absolutely critical that your tech stack work together to create a truly unified commerce business. Perhaps the biggest component here is your inventory management. 

If you’re selling both online and in-person, you run the risk of selling the same product to someone in-store and to someone else online at the same time. How do you decide who actually gets the product? These stockouts cause costly problems for retailers, as they not only lose the sale in the moment, but they could also make shoppers look elsewhere and become loyal customers with one of your competitors. 

And consumers are getting savvier. They know tech can empower retailers of all sizes, so they’re demanding better experiences. In fact, 71% of consumers want to be able to check a store’s stock levels online. 

Promote your online sales channels

It’s not enough to simply launch or list on an ecommerce platform. You’ll need promotion and retail marketing around it to make sure both new and existing customers know about it. 

There are a few ways to let your existing customers know: 

And to appeal to new customers, you might want to explore the following: 

Related: 11 Unique Sales Promotion Examples to Help You Stand Out and Attract Foot Traffic >

Analyze the customer experience

Bricks-and-clicks give retailers deeper insights into their customers than an online- or offline-only business model. Digital and in-store data create a comprehensive look into the customer experience as it happens in real life—not just in silos.  

Integrating your website with your store’s POS system is an easy way to get the insights you need to have a thriving retail business, now and into the future.  

Tips for being a successful bricks-and-clicks retailer

To make it as a bricks-and-clicks retailer, there are a few tips you’ll want to keep in mind: 

  • Ensure you’re approaching it from a truly omnichannel perspective. Bricks-and-clicks is not just about having an ecommerce site and brick-and-mortar store — these channels need to be tightly connected. Your customer only sees one brand, and it’s up to you to synonymize all touchpoints with consistent branding and experiences. 
  • Mind your tech stack setup. Your POS and ecommerce site need to be integrated so you can avoid logistical issues in your business. When setting up your online components, make sure you have a POS like Vend in place—it needs to be able to play nicely with your online sales channels. 
  • Serve your customers. Bricks-and-clicks is about meeting consumer demands and needs. It should be easy for customers to shop, switch, and move between different channels. 

Moving forward with bricks-and-clicks retail

Before you launch into your ecommerce journey, it’s important to ensure your brick-and-mortar locations are equipped with the tech and tools needed to create a truly unified commerce experience. A powerful POS like Vend has several ecommerce integrations, making it easy to run your online and offline businesses seamlessly. 

Learn more about how Vend helps bricks-and-clicks retailers >

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.