It's Time for Brick & Mortar to Get a Life

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Blog Series

In today’s fast-paced world, there’s nothing like a lazy Sunday morning.  For me, the perfect Sunday starts with grabbing brunch, followed by walking over to Starbucks. Afterwards, I always seem to unconsciously gravitate into Boswell Book Company located next-door (picture Meg Ryan’s local bookstore in You’ve Got Mail), even if I’m not looking for a book that day. Armed with caffeine that hasn’t kicked in yet, I’ll take my time meandering through each section of the store while taking in all of the books on display – pausing sporadically to read the staff’s featured book reviews and recommendations posted throughout the store. 

After a complete lap around the store, I’ll check the bulletin board for upcoming author events.  Last spring, I attended a closed-event for Jen Sincero, author of “How to be a Badass and Make Money”. My $20 ticket included a reserved copy of the book, a monologue and reading by the author, a Q&A session with the audience, as well as a personalized autograph and photo-opp with the author.  But this isn’t your typical book-signing event. Boswell Book Company limits their event to about 30-40 people, so that you’re provided with an intimate and engaging experience with the author.

Jen Sincero and I...  We really are pretty badass...

Jen Sincero and I...

We really are pretty badass...

By now the caffeine has me feeling a bit more social, so I’ll ask a question or two to a staff member – maybe about a book or an upcoming event. The staff here is always very attentive and personable. You can tell they are extremely passionate about books and their customers.  If I don’t know where to start, they’ll be patient with me, perhaps crack a joke, and provide me with a great recommendation – and if they don’t carry the book in stock, they’ll order it for me.  Before you know it, I’m walking out with a bagful of books.

Brick & Mortar vs. Ecommerce 

As romantic as my shopping experience at Boswell Book Company may seem, it doesn’t change the fact that online business is still booming. In fact according to National Retail Federation, online retail sales will increase 3.7%-4.2% this year. This may sound a little ominous, but it is not the end of retail brick and mortar (B&M) as many would have you believe. A B&M retailer still has many advantages over the ecommerce world to not only compete, but excel – the key is recognizing these advantages and correlating them with what today’s consumers are looking for. Take Boswell Book Company, for example…

Despite living less than a mile from a Barnes & Noble, I continue to make the trek to Boswell. They provide me with something I want and crave, yet won’t get from their behemoth competitors – a personalized shopping experience with excellent customer service. They make buying books at their store fun and easy, and give me plenty of reasons to keep coming back. 

the customer Connection

They’re searching for an experience, a story, a lifestyle – something they can engage with or make an emotional connection to. The connection may be to your store, your brand, your product, your message, or any combination of these. And in order to make this connection you need to go beyond selling them a sweater – you need to provide them with an experience.  They are shopping your store for the story you’re telling them and the lifestyle that you can provide. Building this emotional connection creates major advantages for B&M retailers.

The key to engaging your retail customers is building a relationship with them. Create a dialogue with your customers that provides them with the lifestyle they’re seeking - even if it isn’t through product you are selling. Understand their interests and challenges as consumers, particularly as they pertain to your business, and how you can offer them something more - something that not only fulfills, but exceeds, their considerations. Provide them with value and a unique experience that your competitors can’t match. And while engaging your current customers, you’ll capture new ones in the process. 

Creative Marketing

Grabbing your customer’s attention, engaging them with your business, and getting them to walk into your store begins with your marketing approach. 

Marketing has changed dramatically over the years. Today there are many different ways to broadcast your business, specifically through lifestyle marketing and engagement marketing. Lifestyle marketing is the idea that a retailer will market their product to embody the interests, attitudes, and opinions of their customers. Engagement marketing focuses more on directly engaging the customer and encouraging them to interact with your retail store including brands, products, and lifestyle. 

The biggest players in today’s retail are using both of these powerful marketing strategies to win more customers. You can easily, and relatively inexpensively, implement these concepts for your own B&M retail store, too! The trick is focusing on what makes sense for your store and brand, and it revolves around knowing your customer and what you can do to provide a positive experience that your customer will connect with. 

Lifestyle Marketing

Lifestyle marketing is a simple way to create additional value for your store and brand. With a little creativity, it can be a fun way to engage with your customers and build relationships with new ones. Today’s leading retailers have successfully implemented lifestyle marketing strategies across media channels.

Recently I received a print catalog in the mail from Reebok featuring their new Fall 2017 workout wear and athleisure apparel. Normally, I would quickly browse this type of mail, throw it my recycling bin and move on, but as I started perusing I noticed something different. Alongside the shots of Reebok’s models running, “barre-ing”, and cross-fitting their new line was additional content featuring articles about the newest workout trends, DIY recipes for essential oils, and a Q&A with lifestyle company Well and Good. Reebok’s catalog read more like a magazine, including a variety of interesting content, and had absolutely nailed the topics I’m interested in.

Days later, I received Anthrolopologie’s new Home catalog. When this beautifully created catalog arrives at my door, I do typically reserve some time to review it over a cup of coffee. I noticed as I read through it that Anthropologie had included write-ups on some of their guest interior decorators and designers. 

The short blurbs that Anthropologie featured provides the reader with a profile about each professional, their method, and may include other information like styling tips or facts about how the goods are created. Each profile shares intimate information and creates authenticity, strengthening the connection to the consumer, and ultimately emboldening Anthropologies’ conscious consumer to buy and share the homespun stories with their friends.  

If printing a 50+ page catalog/magazine is out of your budget and over your time limit there are other channel options. This trend is found in many formats, not just print. I recently received an eblast from Nordstrom featuring their new n. magazine. Much like Reebok’s mailer, their online magazine featured their newest product alongside creative content like suggestions on how to style your look, write-ups about their favorite partnerships and influencers, "a day in the life of a buyer", and even favorite recipes and personalized horoscopes.    

These are all great examples of lifestyle marketing. Each campaign uses the brands and products to support a focus on the customer and their interests – versus focusing only on the brands and products. They’re able to blend the sales-oriented content with material that the consumer will find value in, as well as make a connection with, as they browse. 

how to make it work for you

In order to effectively capitalize on lifestyle marketing, remember to make it about your customer, their interests, and blending in their overall experience with your brand. And because it can be relatively inexpensive to implement, lifestyle marketing can become a huge asset to your B&M store.

To get you started, let’s imagine that you are the owner of local boutique featuring athleisure apparel and accessories. Here are a few examples of some lifestyle marketing opportunities that you could create to provide a unique experience for your customers. 

  • Include a small flyer with every purchase that includes your favorite fall adaptogen smoothie

  • Feature short write-ups in store written by your staff, about their new favorite product and how they love to style it from the gym to cocktail hour

  • Shoot out an eblast about your brand new products and share information about the people who made it, the country it was made in, and how the customer's purchase helps others.

  • Post your favorite 5 minute workout on the social media channel of your choice

  • Partner with a local boutique fitness facility and reach new customers by sharing cross-promotional marketing literature

Each of these ideas will add value to your current customer's experience and may reach new customers too.  They will ALL build authenticity and the emotional connection that your customer's crave.   

There are an infinite number of creative ways for you to begin your lifestyle marketing strategy – and it doesn’t have to stop there. Next week we’ll dive into engagement marketing - how it can work for you, as well as some great recommendations for you to start implementing in your own B&M stores.  


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