The Role of Physical Stores in the Future of Retail

In the past there was only one way to reach consumers: to build a physical store nearby.

Today digital has opened up new channels for engagement and product distribution has improved dramatically. It’s forcing retailers to step back and assess how they go to market. And it doesn’t always mean building a store.

Physical stores can’t just be looked at as a burdensome cost center; they provide unique in-person experiences and emotional human interactions you can’t get online. But it does cost more to operate a physical store; that’s why companies are being more cautious – especially if their original business model didn’t account for it.

How do physical stores fit into the future of food?

Defining the role of physical stores is too big a question to have one simple answer. There are too many variables for each retailer’s situation. What kinds of people do you serve? How many products do you sell? Who are your competitors? These are just a few.


If you’re operating a legacy food and beverage business with existing brick-and-mortar locations, stores are likely to remain the focus. It’s inherent in the assets. What may change is their purpose. Look for ways to create interactive, engaging experiences within the space you have.


If you’re a manufacturer just getting started, consider going direct to consumers until you find your fit in the market. Don’t invest the resources into retail until you’re certain you are ready. As you build up your customer base, then you can expand to a physical storefront when and where it makes sense.

The food and beverage category is somewhat more insulated than the retail industry at large. When you want an ice-cold drink or an indulgent treat on a whim, chances are you’ll find yourself at retail picking up something from a nearby convenience store.

Consumers aren’t standing in the store and scanning a barcode to see if they can buy their chocolate bar for less on Amazon. At least not yet.

What will change about food and beverage retail is how we enable our customers to shop. How we make it more convenient, how we reduce the friction in shopping, and how we adapt our own practices to the way consumers want to shop.

All in all, physical stores still have a very real place in the world for food and beverage marketers.

Even amidst the rise of technology like augmented reality and immersive virtual reality, nothing tops the full-fledged, on-site, real-world experience that a physical store provides.

How we adapt our stores for today’s digital world is up to you.

What do you think should be a top priority for physical stores this year? Leave a reply below to keep the conversation going.

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