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How to Run a Brick and Click Business

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Vice President and Founding Editor at Fundera
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. She launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014 and has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending. She is a monthly columnist for AllBusiness, and her advice has appeared in the SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, StartupNation, and more. Email: meredith@fundera.com.
Meredith Wood
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

A brick and click business model includes both an e-commerce sales channel (the click) and a physical retail location (the brick). Sometimes called click and mortar, this type of business model marries the best of both approaches into a hybrid retail strategy.

Maintaining both physical store and an online presence—typically a website—lends to a multichannel or omnichannel strategy, or one that relies on more than one approach to connect with customers. A brick and click business model allows for two normally separate channels to complement each other, and each can benefit the other. Analytics from web sales can lead to improvements in a retail location, and live customer feedback in stores can shed insight onto what to prioritize online.

Brick-and-mortar businesses aren’t going anywhere, but covering all bases by capitalizing on the rise of e-commerce will serve any small business well. Read on for the ins and outs of running a brick and click business, or jump right our infographic to learn how to add clicks to your bricks.

Why Brick and Click?

E-commerce sales are projected to account for 17.5% of global retail sales by 2021 with no signs of slowing down, but there’s still an undeniable place for physical retail amidst the boom of e-commerce. In fact, the majority of retail purchases still happen offline. Combining both channels makes sense for companies that want to offer more shopping options to customers while increasing both their earnings and potential brand reach.

Components of a Brick and Click Model

Individual retailers may be selective about the aspects of their exact brick and click strategies, but what sets this business model apart is its ability to offer more flexibility in operations than a business owner would have if only focusing on one channel. Take, for example, shipping and returns. Brick and click retailers can offer customers the choice of purchasing products online or in-store and having it delivered either to the store or shipping directly to the customer’s home. Similarly, returns can be streamlined in a brick and click model, giving shoppers the ability to make a return in the physical store to save on shipping costs.

Having an online presence can also allow for customers to better navigate physical retail locations. Rather than walking into a store wondering if a particular item is in stock, a customer can look at a brick and click store’s website to quickly see available items. Seamless integration is important here, because brick and click stores need to keep inventory updated across both platforms.

Integration is the Name of the Game

Each sales channel needs to complement the other: the goal for a business implementing a brick and click model should be to provide a smooth, unified shopping experience. It’s not enough to just have an online and an offline channel that are managed independently of each other. The two channels need to build upon each other in cohesion and offer greater value than simply having one or the other alone would.

Through integration, brick and click business models can help retailers combat issues from sales lost to showrooming. According to a study, 46% of consumers showroom, or explore in-store options only to buy the product online, often through a competitor. By employing an omnichannel strategy, retailers can keep showrooming customers interested by giving them the ability to easily make purchases online while in the physical store. A brick and click strategy can also encourage webrooming, in which consumers browse online before making an in-store purchase. Using two sales channels, retailers can more easily retain customers that look for increased shopping options.

Where E-commerce Meets Physical Shopping

The brick and click business model lies at the intersection of e-commerce and physical retail. Even brands that initially found success in the e-commerce space alone have seen the value of having a brick-and-mortar location to build out their brand experience. Warby Parker, for instance, is one digital native company that saw the value in expanding to physical retail to give customers a much-demanded place to try on their glasses. An improved customer experience is at the heart of a brick and click model, as building out two sales channels creates an opportunity for retailers to accommodate varying customer preferences.

A Better Customer Experience

Customers still like shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, but their demands have changed as more options have become available. Specifically, 71% of customers want to be able to view in-store inventory online, and nearly as many expect to have their online purchases available to pick up in a physical location. Though a purely e-commerce business model offers convenience and flexibility, 30.8% of customers still want to see and feel a product in-store before making a purchase. Brick and click businesses can cater to a wide range of customer desires rather than having to pick which customer type to appease. By offering both online and physical retail options, brick and click brands don’t limit shoppers with store hours and give customers the opportunity to have tactile experiences with products before purchasing.

Pros and Cons of Running a Brick and Click Business

Implementing a brick and click business strategy can be beneficial for a small business and its customer base, but combining e-commerce and physical retail can come with potential drawbacks that small business owners will need to carefully manage.

Advantages of Brick and Click

  • Reach More Customers: In addition to providing in-store experiences for customers, an online channel distributes goods far outside a local community to global consumers.
  • Analytics Can Improve Offerings: Using online analytics can help a physical store refine in-person offerings while meeting customers in a physical location can provide real time feedback for a better online presence.
  • Provide a Better Customer Experience: The brick and click model allows retailers to cater to a wide range of customer preferences while remaining competitive.

Disadvantages of Brick and Click

  • Potentially Cost-Prohibitive: Operating both an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar location comes with additional overhead costs, such as buying a store security system and paying regular website management costs.
  • Comes with a Learning Curve: For digital native or brick-and-mortar-only brands, learning how to leverage a new sales channel can present a challenge.
  • Increased Time Investment: Inventory management across two channels, turning online analytics into action, and lessening discrepancies between the online and offline experience requires more time to implement and manage.

Implementing a Brick and Click Model

Getting started with a brick and click business model comes down to creating a seamless experience across different avenues. If you’re starting from an online-only store, consider creating a showroom to let customers experience your products before buying them online.

If you only have a physical storefront, start by posting products on an e-commerce platform that’s optimized for mobile sales. Keep payment processing straightforward across both channels by using a comprehensive point-of-sale system to accept all payment types and simplify the purchasing process.

Using a brick and click business strategy can help your small business keep up with the reinvention of retail. To help you get started, we’ve put together this infographic with eight ways to combine bricks with clicks in your business model.

Sources: 

Investopedia | Harvard Business Review | Forbes | Statista 1, 2 | Empyr | BigCommerce | Miva | Internet Retailer | 99firms | Deputy

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood

Vice President and Founding Editor at Fundera
Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. She launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014 and has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending. She is a monthly columnist for AllBusiness, and her advice has appeared in the SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, StartupNation, and more. Email: meredith@fundera.com.
Meredith Wood

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