Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

The Great Advantage of Brick and Mortar

I spend much of my day working with online business and digital products at Elevate. Every interaction within the digital experience is important, and our team spends a lot of time working to make those interactions more 'human'. For example, making the next desired action intuitive is more human. Creating messaging that's custom and unique is more human as well. We use creative tools such as shadow, layering, and texture to give designs depth and visual interest. We help our partners interact with customers in new places like on their Apple Watch or mobile phone.

I also spend a good amount of time working on a retail business I co-own, Aromas Coffee. While this business has plenty of challenges, it will never struggle to be human. For better or for worse, brick and mortar will always be a human experience. We don't try very hard at creating layers of sensory experience. We don't often need to make customer interactions more interesting. Trust me, the amazing baristas at Aromas could tell you plenty of interesting people stories.

I think it's easy to see 'human' as a challenge instead of an advantage. There can be downsides to dependency on people for the brand experience. People are flawed and, thus, the experience can be inherently flawed. It's easy to focus on the problems that come with people. Sometimes great people leave. Sometimes people mess up. Often, people aren't consistent. Sometimes customer conversations become distracting or the dreaded "emotions" get in the mix.


Human interactions are a rich and full competitive advantage.


If brick and mortar retail only views the human side as a risk to the brand experience, it misses out on the greatest advantage that exists over digital. Physical stores don't have to depend on people; they get the privilege of showcasing people. Human interactions are a rich and full competitive advantage that brick and mortar needs to leverage. It's not something to hedge and minimize. Perfect isn't interesting. Customers are looking for things to have depth, meaning, uniqueness, and flaws.

The more digital interactions we all have in our day, the more people are looking for real human experiences. If brick and mortar stores leverage that well, it's a massive advantage. It's something digital products will continue to emulate, but never truly replicate

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