We’ve all heard it before – brick-and-mortar retail is dead. Or at the very least, slowing dying out. But if you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you know I have my doubts. In fact, I’ve even argued that in-store experiences are key to a retailer’s omnichannel success, and I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Recent retail news indicates that brick-and-mortar is actually having a resurgence of sorts, and it’s being driven by an unexpected player: ecommerce pure plays. These brands, such as Birchbox, Bonobos, Warby Parker, BaubleBar and others, have realized the pressing need to connect with customers across each and every touchpoint, and provide the resources necessary for them to research and shop for products through multiple channels.
As these ecommerce brands have figured out – it’s time to ditch the monochannel mindset in exchange for omnichannel strategies, and retailers that don’t conform to customer behaviors and deliver on demands will quickly be left in the competition’s dust.
Just last week, Birchbox, the online beauty and grooming subscription service, announced the opening of its first physical retail location. In addition to shoppers being able to select their own beauty samples and partake in in-person beauty tutorials, Birchbox has made it clear that its goal for brick-and-mortar will be to deliver the same personalized experience its customers have come to expect from the ecommerce site. Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox said, “We have learned so much about how we can drive customers to change their behavior online, and we see an opportunity to extend into offline retail to evolve with our customers’ needs.”
Birchbox isn’t alone. Bonobos, a men’s ecommerce retailer, has raised $55 million to open about 30 brick-and-mortar stores over the next two years. These stores are intended to be an extension of the customer’s online shopping and product discovery experience, with no actual merchandise available for sale. According to a New York Times article, the purpose of the expansion is so “customers can go to a store, try on some clothes, buy them and then wait for them to be shipped a couple of days later.” These “Guideshops” (as they’ve been dubbed by the company) are catering to customers’ demands to touch, feel and experience the product before purchasing, all while improving the retailer’s online sales.
While this ecommerce and brick-and-mortar marriage won’t work for every brand, there is an enormous opportunity for pure play etailers to expand their brand offerings with physical locations, and create a more cohesive customer experience. By keeping customer demands and expectations at the forefront and delivering a seamless customer experience across every channel and touchpoint, physical stores can be experienced as an extension of your ecommerce site, and vice versa. In doing so, online retailers can successfully encourage customer loyalty, repeat transactions and cross-channel brand engagement.
What do you think of Birchbox’s and Bonobos’ new brick-and-mortar locations? Share your thoughts below or connect with us on Twitter.