Transitioning Your Online Brand to a Brick-and-Mortar Store

Launching your brand online tests the waters. 

It allows you to hold off on signing any kind of lease until you’re 100% certain you’re ready for a physical shop.

With the e-commerce market skyrocketing past $1 trillion in sales, a whole world of opportunity is waiting for you to explore.

However, the need to establish a physical location might be more than a nice-to-have for you, especially if your business relies on in-person transactions. A tangible space lets customers immerse themselves in your brand experience, and it can complement what you’ve built online.

But you have to know when the time is right so the transition is smooth.

The checklist to expansion (and beyond!)

Growing your brand online first puts you in front of a wide audience inexpensively and quickly. You can boost visibility and loyalty with cost-effective strategies like getting seen in search results and building a strong social media following. 

When the likes, shares, buys, and bookings pour in, it might be time to think about expanding to a physical location.

A brick-and-mortar store elevates brand credibility and creates a literal space for your customers to interact with your products firsthand. 61% of people prefer in-store shopping for testing out products. Those kinds of stats make a good case for taking the leap into a whole new pool of customers.

For example, a busy nutritionist offering health foods, home visits, and online sessions strengthens their brand by opening a central space for workshops, product trials, and personalized dietary advice. This strategy enhances brand visibility and growth while it provides clients with a convenient destination for expert guidance and quality health products.

Since we know consumers still have a love for physical stores, let’s talk about what business factors you need to consider before taking the plunge.

1. Financial stability

Being the trailblazer of your dreams isn’t easy, especially when it comes to capital. But you must get your finances in order if you’re interested in long-term success. You and your customers want your store to succeed, but timing is still key for maintaining a steady cash flow.

Rushing into expansion can backfire.

Assess your financial standing to see if you have enough funds to launch and sustain your brick-and-mortar location. Factor in how this move might affect your cash flow and profitability as you transition.

There might be more costs to consider than you think.

  • Lease or purchase costs: Plan for expenses related to renting or buying a space. Think about where it’s located, how big it is, and how much foot traffic it can get.
  • Renovation and construction: Estimate the costs of fixing up or building the store to match your brand’s look.
  • Inventory management: Figure out how much it costs to keep stock in the store. This includes the cost of buying items and the systems you use to track your inventory.
  • Team costs: Budget for hiring and paying people to work in your store. Wages are obvious, but you also have to decide on benefits, training, and taxes.
  • Booking and point-of-sale (POS) systems: Put money aside for buying or renting systems and software to handle appointments, sales, inventory, and customer information.
  • Marketing and advertising: Set aside cash for telling people about the new store. You could buy signs, run local ads, or throw events to promote it.
  • Insurance and security: Think about how much it costs to insure the store and keep it safe, including property and liability insurance, alarms, and cameras.

2. Brand awareness

We all understand brand recognition deep down.

You stroll down the street, spot the Apple Store, and suddenly wonder, ‘Do I need a new phone?’ Or see someone sipping on a Coca-Cola and instantly crave one. These brands trigger emotions that drive action.

But how do those feelings get there? And how do you measure them?

Let’s break it down. Brand awareness is the extent to which your audience remembers and recognizes your brand. If you sell kombucha, and your brand is the first thing that comes to mind when they need kombucha or any refreshing beverage, you’re on the right track.

As for metrics, try these out for size.

  • Website traffic: Use Google Analytics to track visitors, visitor location, and page views.
  • Social media engagement: Likes, shares, comments – keep an eye on Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • Search engine rankings: Google Search Console and SEMrush help you see where you stand.
  • Customer feedback: Surveys and feedback give insight into brand perception.
  • Brand mentions: Use social listening tools to see what people are saying: positive, negative, or neutral.

3. Market demand

Know the lay of the land for your target market.

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Say you’re eager to launch your own soap shop, but the neighborhood is already packed with similar businesses, like perfumeries or skincare stores. Don’t let that discourage you. Sure, competition exists, but it’s not the end of the world. Perhaps locals want your personalized soaps or DIY workshops. 

Competing in a crowded area is okay if you ensure your brand stands out as the top choice for local shoppers. With 79% of companies running five market research projects a year, staying ahead is nonnegotiable, especially in a new area.

This is what you need to know:

  • Your customers. Figure out who your ideal customers are and what they like. Conduct market research and gather feedback to identify preferences and interests.
  • Your competition. Study similar stores.
  • Your area. Pay attention to how many people walk by and how they behave.
  • Your money. See if your business idea makes sense financially in that location.

Now, if you’re shipping products worldwide or teaching classes from your home, maybe you don’t need a brick-and-mortar location. However, plenty of brands started online and successfully transitioned.

Peloton started selling stationary bikes and exercise equipment bundled with subscriptions to live and pre-recorded virtual classes. Today, the brand boasts 42 locations in the US alone due to a growing demand in the market.

4. Operational capacity

Are you flying solo, rocking the boat with a small team, or gearing up to climb and expand?

Staffing is crucial when it comes to launching your physical store. While online ventures are often managed with just a few hands on deck, as your business grows, so should your team.

That doesn’t mean you have to rush out and start hiring. The folks you bring on board will rep your brand so find people who are ready to level up with you. Keep in mind that the average job interview process takes about 28 days, so plan accordingly.

And let’s not forget about the nitty-gritty: stocking up inventory, getting new gear, setting up tech systems, and hooking up a POS. You’ve got to know where all the logistical puzzle pieces fit when you run a brick-and-mortar operation.

Online retailers opening physical stores isn’t anything new. Amazon famously began with Jeff Bezos selling books out of his garage. Its growth stemmed from expanding the brand online, venturing into new operations as digital retailers, and eventually opening cashierless, technology-filled stores.

This shows how important it is to know what your brand can do and take advantage of opportunities.

5. Location, location, location

A prime spot in a high-traffic area means more eyeballs and potential customers walking through your door. Plus, being in the right neighborhood ensures your products or services cater to the neighborhood. 

But it’s not just about visibility; the competition also comes into play. Finding the sweet spot between being close enough to similar businesses for healthy competition and standing out in an underserved niche is tricky but endlessly rewarding. 

You also need to consider the commute for team members, local taxes, and rent. In short, the right location sets the stage for your store’s success.

6. Target audience

Opening physical retail stores might expose you to a whole new crowd, but don’t dive in blind. Who are you trying to reach? What’s the demographic like? Do they need another Zen spa, or are they actually crying out for a late-night diner? 

Consider factors such as population density, income levels, and lifestyle trends for the area.

Comprehensive research is key. 

  • Set your goals: Decide what you want to learn about your potential customers and the area where you plan to open your store. For customer insights and market analysis, utilize structured surveys or workshops to outline specific objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Learn about the people: Use demographic databases, census data, or online research tools to gather quantitative information about the locals.
  • Explore the demand for your supply: Conduct market surveys, focus groups, or look at online platforms to gauge interest in your products or services within the community.
  • See who your competition is: Conduct competitive analysis by visiting competitor stores, evaluating their offerings, prices, and customer reviews, and taking advantage of online tools to track market competition.
  • Just ask: Engage in face-to-face interviews, phone surveys, or online polls to gather direct feedback and preferences from potential customers in the local community.
  • Asses foot traffic: Conduct foot traffic analysis by observing pedestrian flow, examining accessibility factors, and utilizing data from local authorities or commercial real estate agencies to evaluate the volume of passersby.

You have to connect with your customers.

By merging online and offline interactions, you cater to the 82% who value direct brand communication. Online platforms enable rapid responses and trusted customer service, while physical locations provide personal engagement opportunities.

7. Stand out from the crowd

Growing a healthy and sustainable brand necessitates acknowledging and embracing competition. Competitors serve as catalysts, propelling businesses to consistently deliver superior experiences while fostering innovation and prioritizing the customer.

To stand out in a new area, it’s important to understand your competition – the other stores nearby. Look at what they offer, how much they charge, and who they cater to.

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Then, think about how your store can be different in these ways.

  • Unique value proposition: Define what sets your store apart from competitors. This could be exclusive products or services, innovative technologies to enhance customer experience, or personalized solutions tailored to the local community’s needs.
  • Exceptional customer service: Emphasize a customer-centric approach by ensuring every interaction exceeds expectations. This involves training staff to be knowledgeable, friendly, and responsive, implementing hassle-free return policies, or offering loyalty programs to reward repeat patronage.
  • Strategic pricing: While pricing should be competitive, strike a balance between affordability and perceived value. Consider value-added services or bundled offerings that justify slightly higher price points while remaining attractive to customers.
  • Community engagement: Cultivate a strong presence within the local community by participating in events, sponsoring local initiatives, or partnering with neighboring businesses. Building meaningful relationships fosters trust and loyalty and distinguishes your store as a valued member of the community.
  • Brand storytelling: Share your brand’s narrative authentically, highlighting its values, mission, and commitment to excellence. Engage customers through compelling storytelling across various channels, fostering emotional connections that transcend transactional relationships.
  • Sustainable practices: Integrating sustainable practices can differentiate your store and resonate with eco-conscious consumers. This could involve using eco-friendly packaging, sourcing ethically sourced products, or reducing your carbon footprint through energy-efficient operations.

8. Regulatory considerations

You have to have all legal requirements and permits in place before opening a physical store.

Each area has its own rules, but consider the following chart as a blueprint.

Regulatory Consideration

Importance

Examples

Legal structure

Determines the business entity and liability structure, which impacts taxes and legal responsibilities

Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation

Zoning regulations

Confirms the chosen location complies with local regulations, which affects where the store can operate

Commercial, residential, mixed-use zones

Permits and licenses

Decides which  documents you need to legally run the store

Business license, health permit, signage permit

Building codes

Outlines safety standards and regulations, ensuring the physical store is safe for use

Fire safety codes, ADA compliance, building permits

Taxation

Understanding tax implications and obligations related to retail operations

Sales tax, property tax, income tax

Employment regulations

Complying with laws regarding employment, wages, benefits, and working conditions

Minimum wage laws, employment contracts, benefits

Health and safety laws

Ensuring a safe environment for customers and employees

Occupational safety, food safety regulations, ADA

Environmental standards

Adhering to eco-friendly practices and regulations to minimize environmental impact.

Waste disposal regulations, energy efficiency

Product regulations

Making sure products sold comply with safety, labeling, and packaging regulations

FDA regulations, consumer product safety standards

Accessibility standards

Meeting accessibility requirements for disabled customers

ADA compliance, wheelchair accessibility

It’s your store, you make the rules

If it’s full steam ahead, this means your physical space reflects your brand just as much as your online presence.

From logos to colors, vibe to communication style, make it so recognizable that customers spot it and instantly think of you.

Store design and experience

Your store’s design is crucial for setting the mood for customers when they shop. One big thing is how everything’s laid out. Think about where it’s best to greet customers, where to put stock, where to offer assistance, and where everyone pays. 

Giving your store a vibe that matches your online brand is huge. Decor, signs, and even background music should all fit with what people see digitally. It’s all about creating a spot that clicks with your customers. 

How you display everything makes a big difference in sales. Well-designed displays can boost sales by up to 540%. And tech can enhance the shopping experience. Interactive screens, interactive signs, and an easy mobile checkout make things more fun for shoppers as well. 

Use tech you’ve already integrated with your online store. A mobile checkout simplifies the payment process, accepting payments from smartphones or click-and-collect features. Also, if you offer services, you can have clients pay online in advance on your online booking page. That way, they just show up for their service and enjoy the 5-star treatment.

Give them a reason to shop in-store

With the convenience and comfort of shopping online, here are some ways you can guarantee your customers want to come to your spot. 

  • Immediate assistance: In-store shopping provides immediate assistance from knowledgeable staff who offer guidance, recommendations, and address concerns or questions about the product or service.
  • Physical interaction: Customers can physically interact with the products and try them out firsthand before making a purchase decision. This tactile experience can be crucial, especially for items like clothing, electronics, or furniture.
  • Instant gratification: In-store shopping offers instant gratification as customers can take the product home immediately without waiting for shipping and delivery.
  • Personalized experience: Customers can enjoy a personalized shopping experience tailored to their preferences and needs, with the opportunity for face-to-face interactions and customized recommendations based on their tastes.
  • Trust and security: Some customers prefer the trust and security that comes with physically seeing and inspecting a product or interacting with a service provider in person.  It alleviates concerns about quality, authenticity, and reliability.
  • Social interaction and community: Shopping in-store can provide a social experience and a sense of community, allowing customers to interact with others, seek advice or opinions from fellow shoppers, and engage with local businesses.
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Online, we’re connected; offline, we still connect

Combining your online and offline operations creates a seamless brand experience. Consistency in branding, including messaging, imagery, and design elements, reinforces your identity and helps build a cohesive customer experience. 

Additionally, offering omnichannel fulfillment options such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) or ship-from-store is pretty much expected these days. Integrating your inventory management systems to provide real-time visibility of product availability across channels ensures a smooth shopping experience for customers. 

Extending online loyalty programs to include in-store purchases can help drive customer engagement and loyalty. With incentives such as rewards points or exclusive discounts for customers who shop across channels, you encourage repeat business.

Promoting your physical store through your digital channels is also crucial for driving foot traffic. Using social media, email marketing, and online advertising to promote your store opening and offering exclusive promotions or events can help attract customers to your physical location.

The big reveal

A grand opening gets people excited about your new store and brings in potential customers. Build anticipation, share teasers on social media and in emails, and offer sneak peeks or early discounts to create buzz. Think giveaways, entertainment, and special deals to draw people in.

Connecting with your local community through events, partnerships, and local ads spreads the word and brings in foot traffic. And don’t forget your online channels – use targeted ads and social media posts to reach potential customers nearby and get them hyped about your opening.

Part of the crew, part of the brand

Your team is essential when it comes to delivering top-notch service and reflecting your brand. Investing in their training is a must. They have to know everything about your products and services and how to provide them inside and out. 

Stress the importance of creating a great shopping experience every time to keep folks coming back. Remind them that service starts as soon as the customer walks in the door.  

Teach them how to use all tech in the store and educate them on your brand values so they can represent them well. Set up ways to keep an eye on your store’s performance to make tweaks for ongoing success: track sales, foot traffic, customer feedback, and operations for continuous improvement.

When your team members are happy, and they connect with your business, they’ll enjoy their work more. 

The allure of online marketplaces

Starting a new location can feel overwhelming, particularly in the service industry. Listing your services on an online marketplace may seem beneficial, but it comes at a cost and often dilutes your branding for theirs. And only 16% of customers discover brands through these platforms.

Instead, focus on strategies that give you more control and better results. Invest in search engine optimization (SEO), create amazing experiences to boost positive word-of-mouth, and grow your presence on social media.

Remember, online marketplaces take a cut of your sales. Factor this into your decisions wisely. If you use them initially to expand your client base, implement a policy that clients book or purchase directly through your website or in-store to keep 100% of your profits.

Physical store vs. online store – the key differences

Aspect

Physical store

Online store

Location

Typically located in commercial areas, offices, or malls

Accessed remotely from any location with an internet connection

Tangible experience

Offers in-person interaction, allowing customers to see, touch, and try products

Lacks physical interaction,  relies on images, descriptions, and reviews for decision-making

Operating hours

Operates within specific hours

Operates 24/7, allowing customers to shop or book appointments at any time of day or night

Overhead costs

Generally higher due to expenses like rent, utilities, and staff wages

Generally lower as there is no need for physical space, resulting in reduced overhead costs

Customer interaction

Provides face-to-face customer service, enabling immediate assistance and personalized interactions

Relies on digital communication channels like chat support and email, which lack the immediacy and personal touch of in-person assistance

Understanding these distinctions can assist you in blending them into a cohesive brand that resonates with all your target customers.

Progress, not perfection

Moving your digital brand into a physical store needs careful, incremental planning, smart execution, and constant evaluation. But remember that there are plenty of brands that are only online. You’ve gotta find what fits your business model.

Assess your market research, online brand strength, and capital thoroughly before taking action. With the right data and resources, you’ll nail the best move for your business. 

If you decide to make the leap, remember that mistakes will happen. Course correct when they come up and learn to adapt to your customers’ changing needs – as well as your own. It’s this kind of self-awareness that will make your move from online to offline successful and create a brand that thrives.

Good luck out there!

Explore the ins and outs of retail execution and discover effective strategies to streamline and optimize your retail operations for success.

Edited by Aisha West

منبع: https://learn.g2.com/physical-stores