Amazon Go
The Amazon Go store in Seattle.

There were a record number of store closings in 2017, and that’s not including the number of stores going bankrupt. But there were also a record number of store openings in 2017. So what gives? Consumers are still shopping…a lot. And, while you may think that online shopping is taking over, 88 percent of global sales in value terms were still made in-store.

Yes, it’s clear that online shopping has been a wake-up call and has turned brick-and-mortar shopping on its head. By now we all know the history of which businesses and retailers lost their battles. Now after the shock of online retailing has faded, off-line retailers are figuring out how to compete and understand their own home advantage. Consumers still like to touch and feel products and they still want to have a shopping experience. Brick-and-mortar retail can offer consumers an experience that online shopping can’t offer.

Even online retailers understand this. Increasingly, consumers, particularly younger consumers, want an experience when they shop, as only brick-and-mortar retail can offer. That’s why e-tailers such as Warby Parker and Indochino have opened physical locations. And then, there’s Amazon. After contributing to the shuttering of thousands of bookstores, Amazon has been opening bookstores. Yes, bookstores. With salespeople armed with tablets who can research your likes in real time and help with selections and ordering.

In addition, Amazon has opened Amazon Go, its no-check out concept store, in Seattle; it also acquired Whole Foods. These are clear indications of the advantages of physical locations.

Retailers all know that “experience” matters, and now we’re seeing more innovation in this area than ever before. Target’s “next-gen” stores feature several examples of this: they have two entrances, one for those who need to get in and out quickly looking for convenience and another entrance for customers more interested in browsing; beauty, jewelry and accessories are intermingled to present fashion styles; there are more self-checkout lanes; faster packing and pick-up counters, and better displays and lighting.

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