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5 Reasons Brick-and-Mortars Will Always Succeed The benefits of owning or leasing a physical storefront can lead to more loyal customers and even drive sales.

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Technology has made it so you can start a new business without even paying for a lease. Simply using your laptop and smartphone, you can create an ecommerce site and have customers buying items from you with minimal expense.

But technology solutions aren't always as helpful and convenient as they're cracked up to be. A brick-and-mortar store is still a huge plus for many types of businesses, especially if you sell products that people want to try out.

Demand for commercial real estate is expected to remain strong, with vacancy rates among retail spaces forecast to be on a downward trend next year and into 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors®. When searching for a physical store for your business, it helps to direct that search through a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, who works hard to stay aware of trends and often have insights and access to resources a non-member real estate professional doesn't have.

Here are five of the benefits to a physical storefront that are worth considering.

1. They allow customer sampling.

Despite the popularity of online shopping, customers still prefer to try your products in person. Many shoppers research online before leaving the house. Some customers even head to the physical storefront first to try a product, intending to buy online, and end up making the purchase while at the location.

As International Council of Shopping Centers president Tom McGee said, more than 90 percent of sales still happen in a store. Many retailers have even experimented with in-store product demos, with the intention of engaging customers beyond store shelves.

2. They establish community membership.

As easy as shopping online is, a surprising number of people still prefer to "shop local." Almost 75 percent of customers prioritize a product's origin when making a buying decision. Having a physical location means a business can establish itself as a proud member of the community, which offers an edge when winning those "buy local" customers.

For best results, your business should participate in community events including Chamber of Commerce luncheons and local festivals.

3. They make returns and pickups easy.

For customers, one of the major downsides to buying online is the headache and cost associated with shipping returns. Retailers will lose money if you let customers ship items back at your own cost, but you won't keep shoppers long if you require them to pay shipping fees themselves. Allowing in-store returns helps alleviate that hardship, while getting the customer back through your doors.

Another growing trend is the "buy online, pick up in store" concept. Home Depot estimates that 40 percent of all its online orders leverage its physical stores in one way or another.

Some customers will opt to pick up their online purchases in-store to avoid paying extra shipping fees. Many others, however, will opt in because the store's location is convenient or they are planning to stop in anyway. Retailers might consider offering discounts to customers who pick up their purchases in-store. After all, a customer in the door is an opportunity to make another sale.

4. They can incorporate technology.

If you've spent any time in a physical store, you've likely seen customers checking prices on their smartphones while shopping. At first, businesses tried to fight this practice, known as showrooming, but in recent years they've begun to embrace it. Many retailers now match competitor prices if a better offer is available online and the customer points it out.

Experts also encourage retailers to create an omni-channel experience for their customers. For example, one customer might receive a product recommendation on Facebook from a family member, then walk to your store to make a purchase. Another customer might spend weeks looking at reviews on both mobile and desktop before finally buying because of an email offer. The point is, you have to be able to convert a customer where they are at any given time.

5. They have larger inventory storage space.

Inventory is an ongoing pain point for many small businesses, especially if they lack the storage space necessary for all the products they need on hand. A storefront offers built-in storage for online retailers, who can display products on store shelves that they sell on their websites. When an item is purchased, they simply pull it from the floor, package, and ship.

Always consider whether your company's projected growth will require additional space in the future. Consult with a commercial member of the National Association of Realtors® who can help you find a physical location that includes a large back room with plenty of storage.

A massive number of customers rely on a physical store as a place to interact in the real world with a brand, all the while interacting with that same brand's online store. Make sure you have both, since they can have such a powerful influence on each other.

A Realtor®—a member of the National Association of Realtors®—can help you find the right place to grow your business.