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Taking your online business to the physical world: How to transition to a brick-and-mortar store

Taking your online business to the physical world: How to transition to a brick-and-mortar store
The Siliconreview
16 March, 2021

As an online retailer, have you ever considered getting a physical space for your online business?

I understand you enjoy the liberty and flexibility that comes with running your business online, but let’s not forget that not all your target audience buys things online regularly.

Despite the surge in eCommerce and the meteoric rise in online purchasing, there are still those who don’t buy things online with any kind of regularity.

Maybe these kinds of people aren’t many – TechCrunch says they only make up 21% of the American shopping population – but it’s still worth targeting them.

This is why we created this article to help any online business owner interested in transitioning to the physical world make the leap.

Imagine if you’re selling 1000 units of your products on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, YouTube, website, Amazon, or any other online store. And you’re able to sell an additional 100 units at your physical store; don’t you think that would contribute significantly to your bottom line?

Reasons to own a physical brick-and-mortar store

  1. Improved exposure

In addition to any exposure you’ve gained via your online presence (SEO, Social media marketing, ads marketing, etc.), having physical stores in high-traffic locations can further announce your business to a wider audience.

Think of it like this: a physical store puts you in the faces of those who might have missed your ad or promotional content on the internet.

  1. Improved word-of-mouth marketing

If a new store launches in a neighborhood, people will visit it. And not only that. When their friends or family wants to get something that’s available in that store, they’ll tell them about the new store.

Free PR!

Say you run a fashion store online, and you decide to have a couple of physical stores at strategic locations. The residents of these areas will visit your stores and will bring their friends and family along.

“Want to get cop that sunglass? Oh, wait, I think I saw a similar one in that store down my street. Let’s go check it out”.

  1. A chance to target a newer audience

As an online business, all you’ve had to target so far are internet users and online shoppers. By transitioning to a brick-and-mortar store, you get to target those who don’t frequent the internet or who don’t buy things online regularly.

  1. A chance to beat the competition

Although online businesses try to beat physical stores with their cost-efficient offers, the fact they can’t deliver immediate gratification to consumers puts them at a disadvantage, especially when consumers need instant deliveries.

If you’re an online business owner that has taken the initiative to transition offline when your competitors are still selling on the internet alone, you stand to benefit from any instance when consumers need instant delivery.

  1. A chance to develop a much-improved customer relation

You can talk about digital communications (emailing, social media messaging, etc.) all you want; the fastest way to someone's heart is still via face-to-face interactions.

When you have physical stores situated in neighborhoods and localities, people will visit you in person. At which points you can understand what they’re feeling, and relate with them better.

This gives you a much better platform to build better customer relationships and encourage word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.

Transitioning to a brick-and-mortar store: how to go about it

  1. Choose a physical space

The first step to transition offline is to choose a place where you’re going to be stationed. As expected, this stage of the process is the most important because it’s what will determine the success of your transition.

How do you choose a space?

  • Do your research:

Already, you know the kinds of people that patronize your business. So, what you want to do now is find out which areas or cities these people frequent.

For example, let’s say your online business was a laundry store. The spots you want to find are areas comprising of people who outsource their laundry.

If you ask around, this shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

Alternatively, if you’ve been keeping track of the details of your online customers, you may be able to figure out where most of your online customers have been coming from.

  • Find out what the competition in the area is like

Many people will tell you to avoid places where there are people who are already doing what you. But I beg to differ.

If there are three, four, or five stores already doing what you’re doing in a certain area, the chances are that that is the hotspot for that business. So, why look elsewhere?

You just need to come up with actionable strategies to beat the competition like price slash, discount offers, home deliveries, cashback policies, free offers, etc.

  • Buy, rent, lease, or bargain a space

Now, that you've spotted the perfect location for your business. The next thing is to acquire a space there. Depending on the kinds of deals you find, you might be able to buy a property, rent or lease a space/property, or bargain a custom deal.

  1. Promote your store

Now that your store is live, the next thing is to make people aware of it. Don’t go assuming that because you’ve situated it by the roadside, every passer-by will spot it. Like your online store, you need to promote your physical store, too.

  • Promote your physical store online

Go to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and every channel you’re on and announce your newly-launched store. Tell your friends you’re rewarding the first 100 customers that patronize you. If you’re not getting the kinda vibe you want, create an Instagram profile for your physical store and buy 100 Instagram followers or more for it to make people think your store is already getting some buzz.

In short, put in every social media legwork you know to get everyone talking about your new store. The more noise your store generates online, the more people will know about it.

  • Attend local events

Find out when the next convention, conference, trade show, get-together, or any other event is happening in your store’s locality.

Attend these gatherings, and meet people. The idea here is to introduce your newly opened store to as many people as you meet. If possible, give out your business cards, and tell people they’re free to come to check you out anytime they're chanced.

  • Be involved with the community

By getting yourself involved in things that concern the community, you give your store the chance to be noticed by local residents.

For example, if a local fundraiser is happening in the community, you can offer to become a sponsor. Or perhaps you want to get involved with local charities or volunteer programs.

Just identify any community-related opportunities around you, and tap into them.

  • Promote in neighboring towns or cities

Don’t think that the immediate locality of your brick-and-mortar store is the only place business will come from.

You can get deals from other places too, especially nearby towns, villages, or cities.

You can promote your physical store in a neighboring location using the following strategies:

Billboards

Handbills and flyers

Local Newspaper and Magazine ad

Radio or TV jingle

  • Create a loyalty program

Loyalty programs help you beat the existing competition and also encourage people to return to your store.

When you create a customer loyalty program, make sure it is fun and value-based.

Perhaps customers can get points and redeem rewards. Maybe they have to play a game to get points. Either way, they're more likely to keep coming back.

People like to have fun and this will help them create a connection with your brand, which is important to retaining customers.

  • Set up Google My Business

Local SEO is important once you've set up a physical space. This is because people sometimes search for local items or services on the internet. For example, "barbers near me" "dog groomers' shops around me" "best pet stores in {name of city or town}".

When searchers do this, Google shows them services or stores around them where they can find what they’re looking for.

Once you have a physical store, you want to be amongst the list of stores that Google shows to local-intent searchers. And the way to do that is to set up a Google My Business profile.

  1. Sell your products or offer your service

There is really nothing special if your business is service-based. However, for product-based businesses, here are some tips for success:

  • Start Small

Although you’re not a new startup – you’ve probably been in the business for long – you need to approach your newly-launched brick-and-mortar store like a startup.

It’s better to start small (especially if your audience is somewhat limited) – i.e. invest in a small location, with limited inventory and a minimal staff – because you’re new in the game, and you don’t know what turn the business might take.

Right now, you're simply testing the waters of the brick-and-mortar store world. And in order not to drown, you have to start small.

Conclusion

It is not a must to transition offline. For all we know, some businesses fare better as online-only, and others as physical-only.

But the best businesses are those that can function as hybrids – a mix of both worlds.

Consider the model of your online business and see whether it makes sense setting up a physical space for it. If it does, then start preparing to make the transition.