For pure play retailers, or brands that started out solely in the ecommerce space, brick-and-mortar retail is now an enticing proposition.
The reason for this is not just acquisition and visibility, but the ability to turn online data into insight, creating a seamless and convenient shopping experience across all channels.
Here are six pureplay online retailers that have recently opened brick-and-mortar stores, and the benefits of doing so.
Mattress brand Casper, which started as an online startup in 2014, is expanding its brick-and-mortar strategy after seeing success with its pop-up stores.
While the retailers original USP was to help customers avoid the experience of buying a mattress in-store, Casper is now using physical retail to its advantage. Namely, to engage new customers, as well as differentiate itself in what is now a rather crowded online mattress market.
Casper’s first physical store in New York features six ‘mini-bedrooms’ where customers are able to test out the retailer’s range of mattresses, pillows, and bedsheets. The aim is to create an experience that is far removed from the traditional experience of buying a mattress in-store, making it more about fun and sensory involvement than transactions.
It’s been reported that Casper has plans to open 200 more brick-and-mortar stores in the near future, perhaps offering further proof that when internet-only retailers hit a certain size, bricks and mortar become an important part of their growth strategy.
Allbirds started out as online-only in 2016, positioning itself as an alternative to other footwear brands that use ‘design for design’s sake’. It is a highly customer-focused brand, instead focusing on factors like comfort, wearability, and excellent service.
Allbirds’ decision to enter into physical retail (it now has four brick-and-mortar stores) is based on improving its customer experience, and replicating what it is able to offer online. Its stores are minimal – including furniture and a layout that makes it easy to try on shoes – and a service bar that gives customers the right size (instead of waiting for employees to go away and return).
There is a clear focus on touch and feel, too, with displays detailing how shoes are made and their material. This combats the downsides of online shopping, whereby customers are unaware of how products feel to the touch.
The target demographic of retailer Bonobos is typically ‘millennial’ men – a demographic that aligns with the ease and convenience of online clothes shopping.
However, Bonobos has since found value in additional physical outlets, or ‘guideshops’ as it calls them.
– Bonobos (@Bonobos) April 27, 2017
The aim of these guideshops is to make the physical shopping experience easier, as well as counteract problems with online shopping (such as the wrong fit or a lack of one-to-one service). The guideshops are appointment-only, during which customers can try on and order made-to-measure clothing. These items are then delivered to the customer’s home or location of choice, allowing them to walk away hands-free.
Reports suggest that in-store transactions are twice the amount typically made online, proving the value of this kind of personalised experience.
Warby Parker was founded in 2010 and ventured into physical retail in 2013. In 2018, the eyewear retailer announced plans to reach 100 stores, increasing from around 64 at the beginning of the year.
The reason Warby Parker expanded into brick and mortar in the first place was due to customer demand, specifically to be able to try on glasses before buying them. This meant that it immediately offered customers a valuable reason to visit in-person, allowing Warby Parker to slowly scale up operations as the demand increased.
The wealth of online data available to the brand allows it to experiment with its strategy. For example, it uses a pop-up model in locations where it knows it has an online customer-base, which allows it to test new markets before opening long-term.
Glossier opened its New York flagship store in 2018, marking the beauty brand’s second permanent entry into physical retail (after its first store in LA).
It’s an interesting move from Glossier, especially considering that its digital-first approach has been key to its now-cult-like status in beauty retail. If it has made its name selling through social – why does it feel the need to bring this into real life?
The aim is to strengthen connections with its brand ambassadors; to allow them to experience a physical manifestation of a brand that they could previously only access through social media.
Indeed, the Glossier store brings the Instagram dream to life. The décor is designed to be photographed rather than merely appreciated, encouraging customers to share their experience on social and inspire ‘FOMO’ in others. Instead of shelves, all products are placed on communal tables (alongside mirrors) to allow customers to test out products.
This type of layout makes the Glossier store feel more like a social space than a store, whereby customers can hang out as well as buy their favourite products.
It’s not just smaller pureplays that are dabbling with physical retail. Amazon Go is arguably the most obvious example that springs to mind, as well as one of the most innovative.
Its ‘Just Walk Out’ technology allows customers to simply walk out from stores with whatever they want to buy. Using a combination of deep learning, overhead cameras, and sensors, the retail store is able to detect what customers put in their virtual cart, and then charges their online Amazon account.
– Amazon.com (@amazon) December 5, 2016
There are currently four Amazon Go stores in the US, with reports that the retailer is set to open thousands in the next few years.
Indeed, while other examples in this list have their eye on potential growth, Amazon has a bigger aim – namely to compete with brands in the bricks and mortar grocery market, such as Walmart and Costco, potentially by introducing the tech to its Whole Foods stores.
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