How does North Hills attract customers? By creating a lifestyle center.

John Kane of Kane Realty, the developer behind North Hills in midtown Raleigh, knew his showcase development needed to be anything but an enclosed mall. “I remind people that we tore down the mall and built something that’s very different, in that at North Hills, we have people who come here to go to the gym, the movies, concerts, meet for coffee or lunch. We all know that you can sit at home and order anything you want from your phone or your tablet, so there has to be a reason for you to go to a retail center,” Kane says.

The concept of store as showroom.

Due to the prevalence and convenience of online shopping, Kane knew he had to extend this in-person experience to an online presence, where most of his shoppers make their purchases. Brick and mortar locations are now viewed as showrooms; places patrons can interact with a company’s products and brand, and not necessarily where most sales will take place. “There is still a great value from a marketing standpoint of having a physical presence where people can have a hands-on experience with the merchandise,” Kane says. “It may be that the future of retail is not as focused on in-store sales as educating the customer about the product that will be ordered online.” With this approach, there is a natural connection, but also a necessary separation, of the online and in-store experience.

Blending and balancing the bricks with clicks.

Many successful brands are utilizing the “store as showroom” approach. Amazon has recently created pop-up stores that feature and promote Amazon devices such as Kindle, Echo, and Fire TV by giving customers a chance to interact with the devices at their convenience. Apple has long seen success with this approach, and Kane also points to niche menswear company Bonobos as a retailer that elegantly intertwines the online and bricks and mortar experience. Bonobos customers can make appointments to visit stores – appropriately called Guideshops – to be fitted and receive style advice. Bonobos touts that customers leave Guideshops “hands free” and orders are shipped directly to their homes. Once customers know their sizes, subsequent orders can be made online. This, in his opinion, is a retailer who is successfully blending bricks and clicks, and he plans to follow suit.

For our last blog in this Bricks & Clicks series, we’ll delve into how bricks and clicks will shape the future of retail, shopping local, and the relationships patrons forge with brands.