How E-Commerce Meshes With Brick and Mortar Retail

E-commerce has not replaced physical stores but it has disrupted the way that people have traditionally shopped.

E-Commerce is a consideration for brick and mortar retail…specifically since the pandemic. So says Northmarq regional managing director, Mike Sladich. “Many brick-and-mortar retailers have had e-commerce creeping up on their market share and have been forced to make real-estate decisions for an uncertain future,” Sladich tells

“The pandemic effectively gave those retailers the immediate numbers from a worst-case scenario when everyone started buying online, and they can now adjust their pro-forma sales figures and prototypes to take those expectations into account.”

A Hybrid Experience

According to Sean Unsell, associate principal and senior studio director at RDC, E-commerce has not replaced brick and mortar and it won’t but it has disrupted the way that people have traditionally shopped. Most retailers have adapted to a hybrid shopping experience by providing both in-store and online options. By allowing customers to buy online and pick up in store, retailers provide a quicker and more flexible option than delivery alone. In some cases, it can be much faster and convenient to make purchases online and pick them up curbside without leaving the car.

For certain products, Unsell says, consumers still want to touch and feel or try things on for size before making the purchase. For larger purchases like televisions there is a benefit to seeing the item in person before making a purchase. “Ultimately, many retailers that we work with have incorporated some aspect of e-commerce into their stores to keep up with the demand.”

What is the Technology Telling You?

When chatting with Mark Sigal, CEO of Datex Property Solutions, he mentioned that one of his favorite sayings is from legendary scientist and inventor, Carver Mead, who says, “Listen to the technology; find out what it’s telling you.” So what is the technology telling brick-and-mortar retail with respect to e-commerce?

Sigal says that first and foremost is that it varies meaningfully by merchant category. “The best practice for apparel and sporting goods is very different from that for salons and gyms, but fundamentally, e-commerce can be a communications channel, a fire starter for activating would-be fans, a product discovery and sales channel, ordering, returns and customer care logistics, and a natural outpost for product, pricing and market segmentation strategies.”

How the Concepts Have Merged

Trent Rustan, VP of retail sales and leasing at Commercial Properties Inc./CORFAC International, says that there isn’t any going back, but the real story is about how the two concepts of e-commerce and brick and mortar have merged and “how the thriving brick and mortar retail and restaurants have adapted and/or integrated E-Commerce and technology into their business model and customer experiences. It has made the surviving industry stronger and more resilient.”

According to Jeff Axtell, EVP of development at Vestar, “we have learned over the past five years that retailers need brick and mortar to support their e-commerce business. While e-commerce and brick and mortar each serve their own purpose and experience to the consumer, we now know that retailers have seen an uptick in both online and in-store sales when a physical store is in the same market as the customer. When customers engage with a brand online, they likely will develop a brand connection, prompting additional in store purchases following their initial transaction.”

Transforming Dynamics

Lauren Ball, Chief Operating Officer at Westwood Financial, tells that the rise of e-commerce has significantly transformed traditional retail dynamics. In turn, Ball says, retailers are diversifying across property types and markets to reduce dependency on a single channel.

“They are seamlessly integrating between online and in-store experiences. Retailers invest in omnichannel solutions to bridge the gap. One of our tenants at Carefree Marketplace is an excellent example of an online retailer expanding to a brick-and-mortar location. They were able to multiply their sales by 5X in just one year after opening a physical location.”

Overall, Chris Carley, VP of leasing at Capstone Advisors, tells that retailers and shopping centers have adapted very successfully to e-commerce. “Neither is going away.”

According to Sandy Sigal, president and CEO of NewMark Merrill, today, the combination of e-commerce and physical stores is the way of the future and not as a competitive influence.

By Natalie Dolce for

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