11 Nov
Retail Marketing

Retail Marketing: Brick & Mortar v.s. E-commerce

Depending on the type business and scale, all Retailers will have different goals for their marketing strategies. New retailers might want brand awareness or attract customers to try their products. And for those that want to increase sales might run promotions to boost activity. But no matter what they are doing, the ultimate goal for all retail marketing is to get people to buy.

With more and more E-commerce marketplaces like Shopify, Lazada, Qoo10 using powerful data & technology for their marketing. Can Brick & Mortar Retailers keep up with their online retail marketing strategies?

For this article we will be comparing traditional Brick & Mortar Retailers with E-commerce Retailers. And here are the key differences that affect how they approach their marketing strategies.

1) Purchasing Mechanics

The biggest difference in marketing for Brick & Mortar Retailers and E-commerce Retailers is that one has to bring the customer down to the store to buy and the other just need the customer to buy online.

Just this alone makes a whole lot of difference to their marketing approach. Brick & Mortar Retailers generally focus more on generating foot traffic to their stores. Be it promotions, events, live demos, live bands, etc. They generally try to give customers a reason to come down so there’s an opportunity to sell something.

But for E-commerce Retailers, it’s a different ball game. With information is so readily available and everyone selling similar items, price is usually the final decision maker for most people. Therefore, E-commerce Retailers generally run time-limited promotions to create urgency and attract people to purchase from their website.

2) Retail Marketing Targets

Marketing generally is a numbers game. If 0.01% buys because of your marketing, you’ll need to reach a million people to get 100 purchases.

For E-commerce Retailers, it is really simple to reach millions of people instantly and direct them to your shop. So their main challenge for them is not so much about how to get the numbers, but how to keep visitors for their websites. And for that, they need to create engaging content that gets their visitors browsing more and buying more.

On the other hand for Brick & Mortar Retailers, most are tied down by their location, servicing a local market. With little to no differentiation in their products or services, they usually wait for customers to come to them. They usually do location specific marketing like flyers, posters, events, etc. Because it’s a need based market, their main focus is to get their name out so that customers can drop by if they ever need what they are providing.

3) Costs Mechanics

Costs is pretty straightforward for E-commerce Marketing. You pay only for the successful clicks or successful sale in most cases. This means you pay only when someone walks in your store or when someone buys from you. So to get sales without spending too much money, E-commerce Retailers need to target their keywords and customer profiles very carefully. And by doing so, make sure they are not marketing to people that will not be interested in their products.

For most Brick & Mortar Retailers, marketing is usually an upfront cost buying the channels, printing the materials and paying for the distribution. Because they usually serve a general market, their main focus is to get as many eyeballs as possible from people in the area. Be it putting posters or distributing flyers in high traffic areas, they usually reach out to almost everyone that walks by. Probably with a little selectivity if their distributors are good. E.g. Gender, Age, etc.

Although Brick & Mortar Retailers can run online campaigns too. But unless they have a decent scale or differentiation where their customers will be willing to travel for their products or services. Online or mass marketing campaigns might not be cost effective for them.

4) Operational Issues

With simple voucher codes to determine promotions and discount for customers, there is almost no operational issues for E-commerce Retailers. Unless it’s a technical issue or system error, every sale will be automatically captured in their system. So their main focus is usually to work with as many advertising partners and affiliates as possible to sell & market their products.

For Brick & Mortar Retailers, all their staff needs to be informed on the mechanics of the promotions they are doing. So when customers come, the right promotion can be given to them. The more promotions or partners they work with, the more confusing it will be for their staff. So most retailers usually do generic promotions and work with a few partners to avoid the trouble and confusion.


So to conclude, because of Brick & Mortar & E-commerce Retailers are competing on very different terms, they take very different approach for their marketing strategies. Eventually Brick & Mortar Retailers will need a way to leverage on the same technologies that make E-commerce successful to stay relevant. That is where we at SoVou are working on to bring online marketing tactics to Brick & Mortar Retailers.

Feel free to contact me at jay.li@sovou.com find out more!

Everything expressed in this article is my personal opinion and might not be applicable for all businesses. Please share with us your ideas and thoughts too so we can grow & learn together!

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