Is Micro-Retailing a thing? 

by Nimi Randhawa on Friday 24 August 2018

We’re seeing it in the news everyday and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore. Some of the UK’s biggest brands are downsizing. But while some brands are closing stores up and down the country, struggling under the immense competition, more ecommerce companies are making the transition into brick-and-mortar stores in select locations.

But why - surely the world has now gone online? 

Retailers are experimenting with bringing the customer experience offline, while still incorporating all the traits that made them successful in the digital sphere: customer service, customisation and convenience. Companies are doing this not because they want to move away from digital, but to enhance customer experience through adding another valuable touchpoint in the purchase funnel before customers eventually buy their product online. 

Rather than sticking with what they know and staying online, these brands are actively searching for ways to blend online and offline in order to bring a holistic experience to their customers to drive traffic. “Instead of having physical and digital compete, they should offer different sides of the same coin”, states Eric Jones from WP Engine. 

A brand who achieved this recently is Birchbox, who successfully opened a micro-store in Carnaby Street last year. They aimed to make the shopping experience parallel to what online customers received, by infusing as much technology as possible in the journey. Utilising AI and machine learning, they learnt to personalise product recommendations to subscribers and used the same tactics to personalise the physical retail experience.  

Some companies are also incorporating this trend into their strategy. Furniture retail giant IKEA, for instance, is looking to open a ‘show room’ of sorts in London’s Tottenham Court Road. It will stock some of the store’s most popular items, giving the customer an opportunity to explore their products in person before being engaged to make the order online. This adds to the convenience element of the solution; catering to city dwellers who may find it difficult to travel to out of town superstores. The convenience of being closer to customers to experience products is predicted to generate a surge in offline to online traffic for those featured products. 

Stores of this kind will blend online and offline seamlessly and will provide more experiential experiences to drive engagement. Leveraging online data, the customer journey will become more personalised. Stores will be able to create profiles based on buying behaviour and product preferences, informing these micro-stores of what customers are looking for and which products to stock. The integration of learning from online to offline and vice versa gives micro-stores exceptional value; personalising customer experience, while being small enough to adapt to customer trends.