Beyond the Build


Two Delivery Platforms Merging on the Tracks

While they were strangers in the past, it seems to me that bricks and mortar commerce and the e-commerce experience are coming closer together, two strangers no more. I’m convinced that before long, a combination of the two experiences will just be “retail.”

A few years ago, everyone was “shorting the stock,” counting the demise of the bricks and mortar stores, but the truth is that still today more than 90% of products bought and sold are at physical store locations. Technology has upended many products, and the experience has simultaneously created opportunities to make the store shopping experience more relevant and confluent with one another.

It seems there is a growing trend among major retailers to report sales of their product together, rather than dividing them by store sales and online sales. This makes sense. Last week, I saw a product in the Brooks Brothers store which sparked my interest. Then a few days ago, I decided to buy the shoes from Brooks online. Is this an Internet sale or a store sale?

What about the person who, while in a store, buys a product using his smartphone because he does not wish to carry the product home? I would say these are complementary parts of the same experience.

Sites like Amazon are moving toward pickup locations, and the likes of Target and Macy’s are transforming their stores into fulfillment gateways. While they may be a showroom for the e-commerce of others, bricks and mortar stores that can get the guest in the store ought to be able to fill their needs and make the sale.

Obviously, some products are more e-commerce oriented. Think about electronics vs fashion or food. But then again, most of us are in need of socialization–the experience–which is hard to get in front of a screen. Take for instance this shopping mall in the UK. We have a similar project scheduled to start in 2014, where retailing will meet up with an enhanced experience.

While retailing is changing at an increasingly faster clip, the omni channel strategy keeps evolving, as does the store footprint size.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a dinner and listened to the CEO of ESPN, George Bodenheimer, respond to a question on the future of technology in regards to the ESPN platform. His reply: “Our strategy remains largely unchanged. Our mission has always been to serve the fans in the best way we possibly can, and we plan to continue doing this with whatever new technologies come down the pike.” To me, this sums up everything that our service businesses should be seeking.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.