‘Clicks to bricks’ or ‘etail to retail’ are phrases I’m sure we’ll hear more of in 2014.
They refer to a new trend currently hitting the UK that is seeing well-established and successful e-commerce brands moving to the High Street in a bid to grow and increase sales.
Recent data from Royal Mail supports the trend, reporting that one in six SME UK online retailers is planning to expand into bricks and mortar in 2014.

While an emerging phenomena in the UK, ‘etail to retail’ has already picked up the pace globally.

A US college, LIM College, received coverage worldwide recently for a study that reported 68% of 18-25 year-olds prefer to buy clothes and shoes in stores than online. Successful online cycle brand Rapha opened its first physical store in San Francisco two years ago and former e-commerce-only business Bonobos has opened a number of stores now across the US. Amazon is reported to be considering a retail space in Seattle.
On this side of the pond, eBay experimented with a pop-up store in London just before Christmas in 2011 and IntoOutdoors is set to open a physical store in 2015.
This move is a natural step and an organic transition for retail.
We live in a multichannel and omnichannel world where shoppers expect to be able to pick and choose when, where and how they buy. When it comes to shopping there will always be a desire to touch, feel, smell and ‘kick the tyres’ of a product in the flesh. There will also be those seeking a more immersive brand experience, which can be restrictive online.
The benefits for e-retailers entering the physical environment are plentiful such as brand awareness, sales and attracting new audiences by removing barriers that may have deterred people who favour the High Street.
Here are my five key considerations for the ‘click to brick’ followers:
Beta testing
Beta testing isn’t just reserved for the online world. Trial stores or pop-ups are a great way to beta test your online world on the High Street without the commitment and investment of a full blown bricks and mortar operation. All aspects of retailing can be trailed in this way from different areas and rural or city locations to scale, size and staffing requirements, not forgetting the look, feel and layout.
360⁰ brand experience
Ensure shoppers wholeheartedly embrace your offering in-store by enveloping them in your brand with an immersive experience. This could be a VIP event, a get-together of likeminded people, demonstration or class. It could support your work behind the scenes such as putting shoppers face-to-face with how a product is made or simply offer expert advice and a more personal experience.
The customer journey
Consider the whole customer journey; be inclusive and aware that people shop very differently. Retail is quite simply horses for courses. While someone may prefer to research online before stepping into a store another may shop the High Street and then price compare online. There’s also the showrooming-effect with prices being checked on a mobile device while in-store. Shoppers expect to be able to buy what they want, when they want it, where they want it and how they want it and today’s retailers must recognise and respond to this with the appropriate service that works in harmony both instore and online.
Recruitment tool
By opening a store you’re effectively increasing your promotional channels and placing a giant tactile billboard on the High Street. Whether it’s a fine-tuned beautifully designed city centre store, a stall in a shopping centre or pop-up shop, this is an opportunity to recruit new brand advocates and therefore consideration should be given to inform and engage new shoppers as well as keeping hold of your loyal fan base.
Digital to physical manifestation
Consider how you can move your brand from a digital to a physical manifestation. Brand followers will have a preconception about how your shop will look based on their online experience. Be true to your brand by reflecting it through all elements of the in-store environment. Leave no stone unturned with consideration for areas such as flooring and colour schemes, lighting and technology, density of merchandise, promotional materials, layout and design. Seek expert help to ensure the end result is a true representation of your brand and values.