The retail landscape is constantly evolving. To remain competitive, retailers need to adapt to the changing expectations of consumers – it’s the only way to keep them coming back for more. And while ecommerce has skyrocketed over the years in line with consumer demand, brick-and-mortar retail is by no means dead.
The founders of Brik + Clik predicted the comeback of physical retail. In fact, the Department of Commerce shared that retail grew faster than ecommerce for the first time in 12 years in 2021. So, what’s Brik + Clik? It’s a full-stack commerce platform that integrates physical spaces, online commerce, and virtual reality stores. So far, they have two stores coast to coast, one in San Francisco and the other in New York, along with their eCommerce store.
After only 16 months in business, Brik + Clik has surpassed half a million dollars in lifetime revenue with a team of six full-time employees. The company has partnered with more than 160 brands to curate the best possible experience for consumers and revolutionize the discovery of new products.
Solving Your Own Problems
Hemant Chavan, CEO and co-founder of Brik + Clik, has an extensive background in real estate and construction. He moved from India to the US more than twelve years ago to earn his Master’s in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC). After that, he went to New York City and made his mark in real-estate development, building around $4 billion worth of office, residential, and retail spaces.
“Four years ago, we were finding it difficult to lease out the retail spaces that we were building. People were shopping online more and there was a fundamental shift towards the digital world. Twenty percent of all US retail space is vacant,” Hemant says. “As a founder, you always try to solve your own problems. But when you’re working with corporations, your voice can only go so far. That’s why Eric Hirani, my co-founder, and I started Brik + Clik.
“Just after the pandemic took over the world, we started thinking about different ways we could approach the future of retail. We were actually building the metaverse before it was even a thing. Now, we connect brands with their customers through experiential store designs and in-store tech. We bring the convenience of online shopping while allowing customers to touch, feel, taste, and try on products,” he says.
While Brik + Clik is like any other store you can walk into and buy products, they specialize in direct-to-consumer brands. These brands focus on clean, organic, cruelty-free products with great packaging, healthy ingredients, and interesting founder stories. These brands have often found their footing on Instagram, and for the most part, consumers can only buy their products online.
Brik + Clik carefully selects these brands and puts them together in a one-stop-shop setting. It’s a flexible, omnichannel customer journey that brings consumers everything from food and supplements to skincare and home goods. Instead of having to go to four different websites to buy your favorite products (and pay shipping for each of them), Brik + Clik allows you to order everything in the same place. You can shop in-store or online, pick it up, or have it delivered to you – whatever’s most convenient.
Shaping the Future of Retail
For many online brands, the only way to get in front of a potential customer is by using paid social media ads. But the cost of paid ads has increased 70 percent in the last five years. As a result, the cost of doing business online is now often more expensive than the rent of physical retail spaces. Brick-and-mortar retail can provide a new distribution channel for online-only companies and increase brand discovery.
Brik + Clik helps brands take that step without spending time and effort opening their own store. Hemant says, “Our value proposition is that we can open a store within a few weeks at a low cost (or even no cost) and increase brand distribution almost immediately. All they have to do is send us their products. Leases are cheap right now and many store locations are in great condition, so we don’t even have to build an entirely new store.”
Brik + Clik’s customers consist mainly of Millennial and Gen Z women with high purchasing power. This demographic loves discovering new brands and trying out new products that it can’t find in a Whole Foods or a Target, for example. Brik + Clik is a hub for brand discovery, allowing consumers to experience these brands in-store (often for the first time).
But it’s not just those age cohorts who want to buy mission-driven brands. Everyone is thinking about their health right now – especially after COVID-19. Many are reevaluating their eating habits as well as the products they put on their skin and have in their home. There is a huge interest in high-quality, clean products made by ethical companies, and people are willing to spend money on them.
Hemant says, “People like to touch and try products. That’s innate human nature and it’s not going anywhere. We tap into that. Physical retail is making a comeback. What’s old is new, right? After people were stuck in their homes every day for almost two years, they’re ready to go out and experience the world again.”
“And we’re not saying it’s all about physical retail. We’re saying that unified commerce is the future. Whatever is most convenient for the consumer is what we are solving for. The question we asked ourselves was: Does it make sense to have just an online business in 2021, 2022, and beyond? When it comes to acquisition costs, a physical store can help bring those down. And once a customer has been converted the first time, they can repurchase online – and vice versa. So the online helps the offline, and the offline helps the online. That’s what we think the future is.”
Using Foot Traffic Instead of Expensive Marketing
Brik + Clik started smack in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. “While everyone was shutting things down, we were opening stores,” Hemant says, laughing. “Our team knew that it was going to be slow for a while. Anything that you start during an economic downturn takes time to grow. We knew that going in, so we had a long-term strategy in place.”
They opened a store in San Francisco and another in New York the following month. Brik + Clik’s strategy for building brand awareness is being in high-foot-traffic locations instead of spending their budget on expensive marketing. Hemant says, “Even if you spend $100,000 on Facebook ads per month, you might not break even. So why not take advantage of these cheaper leases and use the power of foot traffic?”
Opening a store on a heavily-trafficked street attracts commuters and tourists. Brik + Clik’s first customers were locals. They supplemented this approach by investing in geo-targeted ads that notified people in the area of their proximity of the store. Once customers convert in-store, Brik + Clik can send marketing communications to increase their lifetime value.
But didn’t COVID affect their foot traffic strategy? Initially, it was challenging, but Hemant says that not everyone was working from home. Those who had to commute appreciated being able to pop into their store. With museums and restaurants being closed, Brik + Clik’s store became a destination or attraction of sorts, something for people to do if they needed a break.
In a post-vaccination world, Brik + Clik’s sales ballooned. In 2021, they hosted a holiday market in Los Angeles that drew 70,000 people from Thanksgiving to Christmas – and brought in $250,000 in revenue in one month alone. “This speaks to the power of physical experiences,” the founder says. “When people visit our stores and markets, their feedback is always that we should open more stores across the country.”
Besides revenue, Brik + Clik focuses on other important numbers like customer return rate, order size, and brand interest. During its peak, it had a 25 percent customer return rate with three to four (sometimes up to 20) products in one purchase. Brands were very interested in that type of traction, as well as the useful data that Brik + Clik collected. Now Brik + Clik has inquiries daily from brands who want to be a part of its store curation.
Infusing the In-Person Shopping Experience With Tech
The retail market is ripe for digitization. Brik + Clik is finding holes in the market that they have the expertise to fill. Besides the curation of brands, Brik + Clik is also testing out its custom technologies in stores and online. The goal is to license it to other retailers in the future, so they can reap the same benefits. Hemant shares that one of those things is “Google Analytics but for retail stores.”
When a customer walks in Brik + Clik knows how much time they spend at a shelf, how much time they spend in the entire store, what they purchase, and so on. This in-depth customer profile will allow retailers to create a better customer experience and increase their revenue. Brik + Clik packages all that data into something easy and digestible for retailers.
Another tech offering they’ve built is the virtual reality store. It’s a digital replica of an actual store, in this case, the San Francisco Brik + Clik store, where visitors can browse and purchase products like they would in person. Any retailer could do the same with their store to provide a hybrid shopping experience. Brik + Clik has the in-house scanning technology to recreate any store in the virtual world.
It’s Not Easy Going Against the Grain
One of Brik + Clik’s obstacles is the stigma of physical retail. Many assume that physical retail is on its way out. “People didn’t agree with us that retail would come back. We had the Wallstreet Journal telling us that we didn’t know what we were talking about, in a not so polite way of course. However, the ones writing about the death of retail in 2020 are the same people who are now writing about store openings and traditional retail making a comeback,” Hemant says.
“It’s tricky when you’re talking to pure tech investors who don’t think it’s scalable. But we have such deep domain expertise and relationships with property owners and landlords that we can find prime locations and build at a low cost. That’s our ‘10,000 hours’ in the industry. We can execute at scale.”
Eric and Hemant were going against the grain of journalist and investor predictions and looking at what consumers want. Hemant says that it all comes down to believing in your concept. If you can’t convince yourself, you can’t convince anyone else. And they believed in what Brik + Clik could do. So the founders used the money that they’d saved for a rainy day to fund their business.
Hemant shares, “Our savings were funding payroll, so there’s pride in saying that you’re helping to create jobs through your business. Because we are passionate about what we’re building, we wanted to retain control of it. We were first money in and wanted to be able to execute according to our vision – so we did not go after external funding in the beginning.”
Bootstrapping allowed these founders to follow their vision and demonstrate proof of concept – and they’ve been extremely successful so far with half a million in revenue. The founders are currently equity crowdfunding on Republic, giving loyal customers the opportunity of ownership. Brik + Clik is just getting started!
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