Reconciling E-Commerce and Brick and Mortar

Reconciling E-Commerce and Brick and Mortar

January 29, 2020

No doubt by this time you've heard, let alone seen, the struggles of brick and mortar. Any company that has a huge square footage footprint, whether its the department stores or Forever 21 with their 50,000 stores, have been cut down month over month. Stores that have existed for decades like Barney's, Gap, Charlotte Russe, and so many more are suddenly closing.

Meanwhile, the survivors are scrambling to "re-invent" the brick and mortar angle. Whether it's basic features like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), gimmicks like photobooths/IG stalls, or genuine add-values like in-person stylists - companies are throwing all the ideas at the wall to see what sticks.  And meanwhile, the malls are praying that the stores find SOMETHING to keep them afloat, while they themselves are investing hundreds of millions into the complexes to re-invent the mall into something that people today feel inspired to leave the internet for.

Then we have some analysis such as here stating that perhaps brick and mortar and e-commerce were never meant to mix. That essentially, you are operating two completely separate businesses with their own best practices, and that functions like BOPIS aren't enough to truly synergize the two to a point where its valuable.

Personally, I think that there IS a meaningful synergy between e-commerce and brick and mortar. But the key is to view the online store as the FOUNDATION of the business, from which brick and mortar becomes the supplement. This is of course, opposite of the traditional view of an online store just being a "side hustle" to the main storefronts. The high price of square footage and the limited reach of local advertising just doesn't cut it in the digital age.

 The proof comes from online retailers like Warby Parker, Casper, or even Amazon. All three of these companies that have purely operated online in the past are now opening physical locations everywhere. There is some data showing that physical locations boost local online sales a significant amount, but more importantly, these physical locations help these companies separate themselves from their online competitors, while building a more personal relationship with its customers.

 As for Angel LA, we absolutely love the mall, but we are also working to build our e-commerce. And with this transition, we are absolutely learning that this is a whole different game. There is definitely a disconnect between our brick and mortar fans vs. our online shoppers, and tying these two together is a challenge. Either way though, we'll keep fighting until we are the last shop standing. Just us and the food court...hey that doesn't sound so bad!

A final point I want to consider is that the world doesn't necessarily move in a straight line. Many aspects of life move more like a pendulum, with trends coming in and out of vogue (hello 90s fashion). And personally, I think humans will learn to better synergize their own lives between the physical realm and the online world, such that the digital and physical world become seamlessly integrated, and with that, humanity's shopping habits. The important thing is to experiment, see trends, focus on the truth, and respond accordingly.


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