INSIGHTS: Lessons bricks and mortar retailers can learn from Amazon

Picture by Edward Moss
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Aston Business School

As celebrates its 20th Anniversary this week a leading retail expert looks at how bricks and mortar retailers can still offer a competitive alternative.

Professor Heiner Evanschitzky, Professor and Chair of Marketing at Aston University in Birmingham, said: “Amazon has had an incredible 20 years, and already has a legacy as one of the disruptive innovators that set the standard for online retailing and changed the face of the industry, as well as consumer shopping habits, forever.

“But it’s not all been plain-sailing for Amazon – they succeed because of their size and because of their pace of growth, but their margins are very low and they have actually lost money in two of the last five years. When competing with a behemoth capable of operating with tight margins, bricks and mortar retailers – even those that are established household names – must be smart.”

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Professor Evanschitzky has outlined four key lessons for traditional retailers to help them adapt and survive in a retail environment increasingly dominated by the online players:

1. Having a web presence is a must

Consumers shopping habits have changed, with online research before purchase now the norm. Without an online presence, a retailer will be far less likely to find a place in consumer thinking.

2. Make your stores a place to experience products

An online presence is a necessity, but a physical presence is a strength as well. For large purchases, or for complex products, a customer may still like the reassurance of seeing the product, the chance to ‘try before you buy’ or the support of a helpful salesperson.

3. Share retail space with complementary businesses

The days of the large retail space – whether the out of town outlet or the high street store – are behind us. Supermarkets especially are finding themselves with prime locations without the footfall to justify them. By sharing retail space with complementary businesses, retailers can reduce their overheads and enjoy the benefits of increased footfall.

4. Focus on a clear proposition

With online retailers able to operate on tight margins and keep even niche items in stock, a traditional retailer can no longer complete to be everything for everyone. Instead, they must focus their proposition and be specialists in their chosen area. You can never beat the cost and convenience of an online retailer, but you can provide a higher quality product and better customer service.


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