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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Brick-and-mortar shops have been the backbone of the US economy for decades. In 2023 alone, brick-and-mortar titans like Walmart netted over $9 billion in profit. This shows that shoppers still value the in-store experience and will continue to support companies that take to the mall or main street to sell the wares. 

However, brick-and-mortar companies shouldn’t rely exclusively on traditional techniques to sell to modern customers. Today consumers expect a level of service that is only achievable if businesses embrace the more dynamic digital retail environment. 

Going digital can improve business operations, too. Smart sensors and mobile apps can collect data for enterprise intelligence plans and advanced, user-friendly point-of-sale systems can help decision-makers collect consumer information for their CRM software. This gives management key insights into customer preferences and improves the overall shopper experience. 

What Is Smart Retail?

A cashier at a brick and mortar store

Most people are familiar with smart devices in the home. Household smart devices, like smart speakers and smart thermostats, work by gathering data points and connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT). They are generally designed to be non-invasive and use their powerful tech to make life a little easier. 

The same principles apply to recent innovations in smart retail. Smart retail devices are revolutionizing the shopping journey by making it easier for consumers to get what they want. This is key, as shoppers still value the in-store experience, but want to see more brick-and-mortar vendors adopt digital technology. 

Embracing smart retail can enhance management efforts, too. For example, 53% of department stores plan to use real-time inventory management, while 38% already use artificial intelligence to improve their operations. Common examples of smart retail technology include: 

  • Smart shelves that monitor inventory;
  • Smart tags to reduce theft and track movement;
  • Self-checkouts;
  • AR-integrated barcodes that tell consumers more about a product;
  • Easily changeable digital signage.

These examples of smart tech can’t replace the hard work of in-store associates, but they can empower employees to make better decisions and sell more stock. These devices can point consumers towards an e-commerce store, too, meaning businesses can even convert customers who leave the store before buying.  

E-Commerce Integration

A laptop with an ecommerce store open

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores may be hesitant to open an e-commerce website. This is understandable, as running and maintaining an e-commerce presence is an entire job in itself. However, integrating current stock with e-commerce sales can offer an additional point of sale and dramatically increase conversions. 

A strong web presence is good for the consumer experience, too. Folks who find the digital store should be able to read more about products and learn more about the business’ values and mission. This empowers customers to make more informed decisions and can bolster brand recognition and loyalty. 

E-commerce integration can be automated, too. This is crucial for firms who choose to expand their business online. Finding a website host with automated tools and a snappy design can remove the need for manual processing and will ensure that shopkeepers always have enough stock to sell to in-person shoppers. This approach to sales improves online integration and reduces the risk of backlogs due to stock mismanagement. 

Incorporating Tech Successfully 

Choosing Freelance Full Stack PHP Developers

The future of brick-and-mortar retail is digital. However, that doesn’t mean that shop managers should bend over backward to incorporate every new piece of IoT tech or smart scanner. Instead, decision-makers should only use technology that has a positive ROI and helps them achieve their goals. 

Brick-and-mortar store managers who do choose to incorporate tech should utilize process improvements to track, analyze, and tweak the tools they use. Process improvements help decision-makers by discovering inefficiencies and revealing hidden bottlenecks. A proactive approach to process improvement can help firms scale up, which may be important if their online store takes off quicker than expected. 

Process improvement helps companies keep their goals close in mind, too. This is crucial, as it’s all too easy to get swept away in the excitement surrounding the IoT and smart tech. Managers can make better-informed decisions by mapping out formal and informal processes before buying new tech. This approach to integration ensures that companies only spend on the tools that will authentically enhance profitability and lead to brick-and-mortar success. 

Artificial Intelligence 


The recent rise of artificial intelligence is reshaping the way we think about shopping. AI is changing the retail industry by reducing inefficiencies, improving the customer journey, and automating in-store processes like inventory management. 

Brick-and-mortar retailers can use AI to improve demand forecasting and improve the accuracy of customer sentiment analysis efforts. AI can quickly collate data from varied sources like customer feedback, social media, and online reviews. These insights can then be used to tweak the brand image and identify areas for improvement. 

AI can improve the in-store experience, too. Retailers can send consumers personalized recommendations based on their recent purchases and can notify customers when their favorite item goes on sale. This can increase upselling in-store and result in an uptick in complementary sales. 


Brick-and-mortar businesses are here to stay. However, physical retailers should pay attention to digital tech that cuts costs, reduces risk, and improves the customer journey. Even simple changes, like investing in smart tags, can improve managers’ understanding of customer behavior, reduce inventory mismanagement, and increase sales. 

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