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Offline retail selling is far from dead. According to Google, searches for “open now near me” have grown globally by over 400%. Even in the age of online shopping, there’s still a strong demand for offline retail stores.

Providing a seamless experience to offline consumers has become necessary for eCommerce companies to stay competitive. With the online-to-offline commerce market set to hit $422 billion by 2027, it's a lucrative opportunity for smaller brands to gain ground.

As with any business endeavor, the key is proper planning and preparation. In this article, we'll review online brands that have been successful in the offline retail landscape and provide actionable tips to help you get started.

O2O commerce and small brands that are nailing it

Online sales accounted for nearly 19% of global retail sales in 2021 and are projected to rise to a quarter in the next 5 years. Despite this growth, offline sales continue to drive the lion's share (81%) of sales, amounting to $19.1 trillion.

This gives birth to online-to-offline (O2O) commerce, a retail strategy that integrates the best of both worlds for digitally native brands.

O2O commerce requires digital and traditional marketing efforts to attract prospects from various touchpoints. For instance, businesses can use social media to direct online customers to offline locations, such as brick-and-mortar shops, pop-up stores, or event venues.

Benefits of O2O commerce

O2O can help you expand your customer base and increase sales. To help you understand its value, let's take a look at its benefits.

1. Cross-sell, upsell, and expand your brand offerings

In-store selling allows you to interact with customers in person. You can easily identify their needs and offer them products that complement what they're already interested in. It's also an opportunity to provide services that augment your core offerings.

Beauty Heroes is a local haven for healthy beauty that began as an organic skincare eCommerce brand. Today, their flagship store offers luxurious skin and beauty services in addition to their products. Customers can go to their website to schedule a visit or apply for membership for extra savings.

Source: @beautyheroes

2. Build stronger relationships with your community

When you sell products online, it can be easy to forget that real people are behind the screens. Meanwhile, in a physical shop, you get to know your customers on a more personal level. You can seize this chance to foster long-term trust and loyalty for your brand.

by, Sydney Elise Boutique has ramped up from a garage pop-up shop to a full-fledged physical store. What the owner started as a sticker shop on Etsy is now a go-to boho boutique in their local town. This shift didn't only boost sales but also inspired a community of loyal, repeat customers.

Source: Sydney Elise Boutique

3. Reach a wider customer base with less marketing spending

Offline selling doesn't rely heavily on paid ads and campaigns to generate sales. A busy, high-traffic area, eye-catching displays, and good timing are enough to drive in-store walk-ins. Any online start-up can sell offline without investing large sums of money.

Handmade macrame accessories shop, Roots Co. Macrame works with over 50 local artisans to host pop-up events. They set up tiny, themed stalls around holidays (when people are already in a gift-buying mood), making them prime opportunities to sell directly to customers and passersby.

Source: @rootscomacrame

Selling offline can be an excellent way to grow your small business. But before you take the plunge, you should consider a few things to ensure a smooth transition.

How to make the switch from online to offline selling

When selling offline, your business plan should include more than rent, utilities, and payroll. You'll also need to evaluate how your products will fare in the offline world. Follow these five tips to start selling smarter offline.

1. Incorporate cross-promotion strategies

Offline and online marketing strategies shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. About 54% of consumers prefer to browse a product online and buy it in-store, while 53% are likely to look at it in-store and buy it online. Through cross-promotion, you can accommodate your customers’ unique shopping preferences.

Do you have recurring online customers? Offer discounts or coupons, which they can only redeem in-store. Doing so can encourage them to visit your store and make a purchase. You can also encourage repeat in-store purchases using loyalty or referral programs.

Here’s a creative example from The Pastry Project, home to delectable swirls and pastries. The shop sells swirl cards on its website, but they're only redeemable at the shop. Including a limited-time offer gives customers an incentive to act fast and allows the company to measure customer response.

Source: @thepastryproject_

Other cross-promotion strategies include live streaming, sharing behind-the-scenes footage, and using branded hashtags online. Offline customers can then engage and post more content, enticing online shoppers to visit your store.

Selling offline requires a plan. Cross-promote your products to test the waters and discover what works best for your customers.

2. Run a pop-up shop

With 47% of global consumers more inclined to buy from brands with a local presence, pop-up stores are making giant strides in the industry. Small businesses utilize them to test-run a brick-and-mortar without the commitment of a long-term lease or upfront investment.

Pop-ups require extensive business planning despite the ease of entry. Where will it be located? How long do you want it to run? Determine your budget and short-term goals before participating in events or setting up a booth at a local market.

Engage with your local community on social media to learn about upcoming events nearby. You can also join groups, connect with other retailers in your area, and keep yourself informed.

If there are no events near you or you can’t find a good match for your business, consider organizing and hosting your event (like Roots Co. Macrame does).

The key is choosing a high-traffic area typically visited by your target audience. For example, if your target customers are young adults, you might want to locate your business near a college campus or downtown.

Once you’ve chosen a location, showcase your brand identity with your booth. Makers of handmade goods Crawford & Co. decorated their pop-up shop with a rustic, earthy look that meshes well with their organic soaps and candles. The setup’s cozy, while the homey atmosphere makes it stand out, attract more customers, and increases brand recall.

Source: @crawfordandco_handmade

While you're at it, promote your pop-ups online. Run a live stream or offer giveaways on social media so your followers have more reasons to visit your stall.

You can also create amusing and shareable clips, such as this one from The Sunny Side Co., an online boutique that sells trendy glass cups. This TikTok video alone has 358.2K views and counting, giving their online and offline traffic a nice boost.

Source: @thesunnysideco

Opening a pop-up shop is the easiest way to get your feet wet in offline retail. With careful planning, it can be a stepping stone to your brick-and-mortar store.

3. Offer in-store pick-up

More than 9 out of 10 shoppers prefer to shop with BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store). Most of those polled are either used to or interested in picking up their purchases at the register. You can cater to these needs by offering pick-up options while driving traffic to your store.

Data shows that an average shopper makes 12 impulse purchases of up to $276 per month. By enticing online customers to step into your stores to pick up their orders, you're triggering their impulses and making it easier for them to discover and buy additional items. Place discounted and bundled items near the pick-up area to encourage more unplanned purchases from them.

It’s also important to integrate your POS system with your store website or mobile app. So when someone places an order in your online store, your inventory levels are updated automatically. It keeps customers from checking out out-of-stock items, which could lead to frustration and lost sales.

52% of shoppers cited convenience as a factor influencing their purchasing decisions. Make sure it adds value to your customers and doesn’t create a new problem. Use this solution to make your pop-up shop or new emporium a traffic magnet in your neighborhood.

4. Consider retail partnerships

Partnership programs can boost revenue by 49% and brand awareness by 45%. Two heads are better than one. If you’re struggling to get customers through the door, collaborative selling can be your best solution.

Retail collaboration can be a joint ad campaign, a co-sponsored event, or a sales and distribution agreement. Figure out which of these areas is the weakest in your business. Then, find other complementary brands that can help you and vice versa.

Cutino Sauce Co., known for its Habanero-inspired sauces, teamed up with an Italian restaurant famous for its signature wood-fired pizza — The Gelato Spot. The Gelato Spot uses and promotes Cutino's bottled sauces, while Cutino markets the diner online. As a result, both brands benefit from each other's market base in terms of offline sales.

Source: @cutinosauce

Of course, don't set your collaborative selling strategies in stone. Be prepared to change course if necessary. Flexible partnership plans can help you adapt to the ever-changing offline selling landscape.

5. Elevate the in-store shopping experience

59% of consumers believe businesses have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. Moreover, 71% of Americans prefer interacting with real people rather than a chatbot or automated system. These figures prove the significance of authentic and immersive in-store shopping experiences.

Prospects and customers like to be treated as individuals rather than just another headcount in your store. Offer unique experiences like one-on-one assistance and tailored product recommendations. You can even leverage your retail packaging to draw their attention and share your brand story.

For instance, online food retailers opening brick-and-mortar stores may use noissue’s Custom Wax Paper or Food Wrapping Paper they use to package their goods, such as pastries, for in-store preparations. Wax paper, in particular, is ideal for lining food baskets and wrapping to-go purchases. In addition, this low-hanging fruit technique shows consistency and improves brand recognition.

custom noissue wax paper is perfect for keeping food as fresh as your branding

You can also print QR codes on your custom packaging or card inserts. Depending on your products, you can redirect the link to promo codes, free downloadables, or free WiFi connection. These tools will improve the customer experience while you focus on running your business.

Successful offline selling is built on a solid bedrock of positive in-store experiences, from great customer service to exceptional brand aesthetics.

Wrapping it up

The rise of O2O commerce has been a boon for small brands. It opens up new marketing channels and makes it easier to reach potential customers. Thanks to those who blazed the trail, you don't have to go through trial and error to succeed.

Drive more customers inside your store with the right strategies. Cross-promote your products, offer flexible and convenient shopping options, seek retail partnerships, and make in-store shopping more enjoyable. With enough consistency, you’ll soon see a significant increase in sales and foot traffic.