Why Ecommerce Needs a Brick-And-Mortar Presence

Why Ecommerce Needs a Brick-And-Mortar Presence

Why Ecommerce Needs a Brick-And-Mortar Presence 800 611 Chute Gerdeman

Not too long ago industry experts challenged that brick and mortar retailers had something to fear from ecommerce brands that only maintained an online presence. Times have changed and it’s those very ecommerce brands that now see brick and mortar as a vital way to stay competitive in the world of retail. While stories can be told online, brand is only an aspect that can be fully experienced in a physical space. The world of retail now demands an online and offline experience. Here’s why a few brands are making the transition from clicks to bricks.

Guiding a Personalized Service

Menswear apparel brand Bonobos launched exclusively online in 2007 and extended its business model in 2011 to include brick-and-mortar stores called Guideshops. The hybrid stores provide the ultimate in customer service combined with the ease and convenience of online retail. Understanding that most men don’t truly like to shop, they created an in-store experience that catered to their consumers. Shoppers simply book an hour-long appointment online then show up at the shop where Bonobos’ Guides walk them through the entire collection to find their perfect fit. The order is placed in-store, and the items are delivered 2nd day air. Repeat purchases are simplified with all sizes stored online where you can just login, shop, select and ship.

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The brand was launched to provide men the ultimate apparel fit, which supports why a brick-and-mortar presence compliments the offer. Men shop everyday online, and will continue to, but the one-on-one Guideshop service gives them the utmost confidence in the purchase they make. And by having integrated an online component they’re able to maintain a small retail footprint and remove the stress of managing in-store inventory. According to reports, Bonobos customers spend twice as much after visiting the Guideshops. Today they’re the largest clothing brand ever built online in the U.S. with fifteen Guideshops nationwide and a Nordstrom partnership to support.

Interesting fact: Bonobos almost stumbled upon brick-and-mortar. After building a direct sales force and launching two fitting rooms in the lobby of their headquarters, ninety days later they found themselves projecting $1 mil if the projected trends continued.

A Focus on Brand Engagement

Five years ago eyewear brand Warby Parker set out to provide consumers with designer glasses at affordable prices. They utilized a home try on program to build their customer base, which quickly grew into a cult following from word-of-mouth. They established brand partnerships with boutique retailers to provide showrooms for customers to touch and try on, and leveraged temporary pop-up shops like The Readery in LA’s Standard Hotel, and traveled cross-country with Warby Parker’s Class Trip. Profits from the showrooms and pop-ups proved a purpose for why it made sense to offer a brick-and-mortar presence.

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“This is really an opportunity for us to showcase the brand and to have our customers experience it live,” says Warby Parker co-founder and co-Chief Executive Neil Blumenthal. “We can create really special experiences online, but there’s nothing quite like walking into a physical space, a world we’ve created. To some extent these stores can be considered a form of marketing and customer acquisition.”

Sales per square foot are clearly positive putting them in the ranks just behind Apple averaging at $3,000 sq. ft. and just ahead of Tiffany & Co.

A Lab for Out of The Box Thinking

We’ve watched Birchbox since the lifestyle beauty brand broke onto the scene with their subscription based service model targeting beauty curious consumers. We predicted from the inception that a brick and mortar presence might logically follow. As brands like Sephora and Ulta pushed traditional retailers to rethink the experience, Birchbox was creating a platform that gave new products exposure and put them directly in the hands of their consumers.

Not unlike Warby Parker, Birchbox’s clicks to bricks strategy started with an exploration in the pop-up model. The brand tested five pop-up stores before the final flagship launch this past year in Soho.

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The flagship store was designed with their online site in mind. Taking a cue from how consumers shop, the space is organized by category—lips, hair, and eyes—instead of by brand, and shoppers can test out the looks (guilt free) at the “Try Bar.” And those who still love the customized experienced they can explore the BYOB (Build Your Own Birchbox) section, selecting five sample-sized items for $15. The space also provides a hair, nail, and makeup studio where women can indulge in a little pampering while shopping for life’s little beauty essentials. Associates are on hand to assist you if needed, but they’ve also created the Product Matchmaker tool to help you find your beauty matches if you choose to go it on your own. The space is also utilized for beauty tutorials because if there’s anything a woman appreciates is a good how-to walkthrough of the newest makeup or hairstyle trends.

The retailer has publicly acknowledged that aggressive expansion is not in their immediate plans. They’ve utilized their in-store environment as a way to learn about their consumers firsthand and ultimately evolve the online brand and direct to consumer products.

While these brands may maintain a brick-and-mortar-lite formula, the in-store environment creates an opportunity to provide consumers a deeper level of brand and product engagement, as well as offer a premium customer service experience.

Photo credit: Statesmen | Birdie Shoots | Warby Parker | Birchbox

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