How Can Brick & Mortar Stores Get Better and Stay in Business?

How Can Brick & Mortar Stores Get Better and Stay in Business?

Going through my feeds yesterday, I cam across a piece by Josh Smith on on “3 Ways Retail Can Embrace Mobile to Profit and Thrive” and it got me thinking: Is that all there is?  There has to be more and I thought up of a few more things that can not only make the shopping experience better by embracing mobile and technology but help the business too.

Free WiFi

Josh said in his article that Free WiFi would be cost prohibitive; yet I’ve seen many stores do this, and I think it’s a brilliant idea.  Regional grocery change Meijer has many locations near my house, and their Grove City location has free wireless internet in their cafe.  This was a welcome refuge when my house lost its air conditioning during the middle of the hottest summers in years.

Meijer could take this one step further and add this throughout the store, or even possibly use it to enhance the location features in their application.

Mobile Apps – Make Them Useful!

How Can Brick & Mortar Stores Get Better and Stay in Business?

I have loaded many apps for retail locations in the past, and a number of them didn’t last long.  That’s because many offered no functions beyond looking up locations nearby or looking up their ads.  Grocery store Aldi has an app that once you drill down into it doesn’t even have marketing.  It’s no frills, but then Aldi itself is no frills, so perhaps it works for them.  However, you should want to make use of the app to help you save on labor costs as well as give your customers services that save time and headaches.

How Can Brick & Mortar Stores Get Better and Stay in Business?

Walgreens has an app that usually never leaves my phone.  Why?  I can scan my prescription bottle the moment I run out, and get my medication refilled much more quickly than if I had to jump in my car and give them the bottle at the store.  This helps me save time, which is at a premium these days.

Ideas along this line can include ordering food from your phone, making reservations or seeing if an item is in stock before you go to the store.  Imagine rolling into a Starbucks and having your drink waiting for you to pick it up?

Upgrade the Shopping Cart

Some stores have added niceties like cup holders on their shopping carts, and while that’s nice, I think of how much further they could go.  One idea I have is to integrate a MicroUSB/iPhone charger onto the cart.  An enterprising company could even put a generator on one of the wheels to keep the battery topped off.  This may add too much cost for some stores.  So why not put something on the cart to place your phone, iPad or Kindle in a good, but secure viewing position while you shop?  How about integrating a tablet on the car that can read sensors nearby and use the store’s WiFi to show you where things are located.  I could have used this when I spent 30 minutes at Lowe’s looking for yard waste bags — not knowing I walked right by them when I walked into the store.

Make Shopping an Experience

The number one thing that would improve the retail shopping experience is to make it one.  That is, do a bit more than just flop the products on the floor and expect them to sell.  For examples of this I look at Ikea.  Even in the 80’s and 90’s, Ikea had things that some stores don’t have.  They’ve had a restaurant for many years and while many stores have these too, they don’t have the same kind of foods at Ikea.  Ikea takes food from their home country and brings it to customers all over the world.  Swedish Meatballs and other items that are unique to Ikea’s birthplace are different and unique enough that it makes a trip to Ikea’s restaurant memorable, versus grabbing a Hot Dog at Sam’s Club.

Things like comfortable seating, food and other amusements help make it much more fun to go to a brick and mortar, in contrast to just placing an order in via

What do you say?

What would make you pick a brick and mortar store over shopping via or some other site.  What have you seen in stores that makes you want to go back other than just price? What ideas do you have to improve the brick and mortar experience?


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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.