Pay Attention! Brick and Mortar + Social Media = Symbiotic Love

Ten years ago we all heard doom and gloom projections about the demise of brick and mortar stores saying everyone will shop exclusively online and an in-person retail experience will become extinct. As time passed, technology developed and brick and mortar stores survived, we came to realize the two have a symbiotic relationship. Many social media and online platforms rely on actual stores to generate revenue.  Conversely, online properties are very effective for driving customers to physical stores. Here’s a brief rundown on some of the most current examples:
• Groupon – This site offers deep discounts from local merchants if enough customers sign up for the offer. Groupon doesn’t work if there are no stores to give these offers and no locations where customers can go. Without brick and mortar, there is no need for Groupon. Also, without local stores paying the fees, Groupon generates no revenue.
• Foursquare – Foursquare is all about check-ins and special discount alerts. Without a physical location for customers to check in, Foursquare’s advertiser revenue disappears. Sure, you can still check in at your friend’s house or a park, but these check-in locations will not pay Foursquare a fee.
• Yelp – Yelp and other local-based search sites are completely dependent on the existence of physical stores. Without them, there are fewer easy ways to see where the coolest spots in NYC, Dallas, or San Francisco are. Again, they make their money through “advertising plans” that are paid for by local business.
•  Google & Facebook – Yup, even the big guys on the block are partially dependent on physical stores paying for text ads. Of course, Google and Facebook are more insulated than other platforms because searches for online businesses are also a big part of their revenue stream. But without these small, local businesses spending $300 – $500 per month on text ads, they would  take a major hit on their balance sheet.

So, what’s happening now? Well, as the online shopping experience goes mobile with smart phones like the iPhone and tablets such as the iPad, brick and mortar becomes even more important. People now use their phone to find the physical location of a store or see what specials are happening there more than for e-commerce purposes. People still want the tactile experience that comes with shopping. Would you buy a brand of shoes or clothes online when you are not familiar with its fit or quality? Do you trust that the color you see on the monitor is accurate? Nothing beats trying something on for determining how comfortable it is and how well it fits. As well, humans need to feel connection. Some of this can be accomplished through our digital social experiences, but in the end we crave the real human interaction.  The social experience of going to a physical marketplace is thousands of years old.  It’s literally in our DNA to shop at brick and mortar stores. Social media platforms are not the demise of physical store locations – rather they’re an example of the way technology can enhance the human experience instead of detract from it.