Just when it looked as if the days of brick-and-mortar stores were numbered, the greatest perceived threat to traditional retail’s existence has come along to save the day: E-commerce!

Despite the closing of physical retail behemoths like Sears and Toys “R” Us, brick-and-mortar consumer retail operations are enjoying their biggest growth since 2011, according to eMarketingRetail.com, part of the online marketing research company eMarketer.  The site concludes that the turnabout has given online customers a way to  experience, physically, a brand they’ve known only digitally while drawing consumers back to brick-and-mortar stores.

What’s more, by applying digital best practices to off-line retail locations, those stores can offer smarter, more efficient and more relevant shopping experiences.

Here’s how:

  • Physical stores learn from their digital storefronts which products, styles and sizes are in demand, then use that data to make better merchandizing decisions;
  • Data gathered from online sales as to which geographies have the greatest customer concentration informs decisions when picking brick and mortar locations;
  • Online fulfillment methods help physical stores reduce inventory and minimize real estate overhead.

The clearest demonstration of the trend may be Amazon having opened upwards of 600 physical retail locations across the U.S., according to research from Geekwire, a technology news website covering startups and established technology companies

Meanwhile, digitally-native brands are helping reshape brick-and-mortar retail in other ways, as well. As eMarketingRetail notes, brands like Brandless are rolling out pop-up stores at the same time that traditional retailers are inviting online brands into their stores through partnerships like the one between Target and Harry’s Razors.

All in all, the future for traditional brick-and-mortar looks brighter than once predicted, just different than anyone might have imagined.