A recent trend in omni-channel retailing (and one that we expect to grow in 2015) is ecommerce merchants opening brick and mortar stores.
“E-tailers are dipping their toes into the traditional brick and mortar locations as they experience the benefits of exposing their brands to a whole new range of customers” commented Thomas Bisacquino, President and CEO of NAIOP.
Smaller ecommerce merchants are taking a more conservative approach by renting space temporarily to be used as a showroom or popup shop. This allows them to test out the brick and mortar environment before committing to a lease.
Clearly, brick and mortar stores are not dead, it might actually be experiencing a revival. Here’s 4 ecommerce leaders that have opened retail stores in the last year or so, and the reasons why they’re doing it.
What many people anticipated, while others swore would never happen, has come true. Amazon opened its first physical store this February and planning to open more of them. The store is located on the campus of Purdue University in Indiana and is described as a “customer order pickup and drop-off location.” Mitch Daniels, president of the University, said the store makes it more convenient and affordable for students to purchase books and other supplies.
Warby Parker is a young American brand of eyeglasses and sunglasses that was started as an internet only company. Their vision never included brick and mortar. But the more they talked with their customers, the more it became clear that they wanted to be able to touch the merchandise and interact with someone face to face. So that's what Warby Parker gave them.
This tongue-in-cheek retailer grew to a multi-billion dollar company from it’s humble beginnings on Ebay. The company’s personality has always been a key element in attracting the right demographic and building brand loyalty. “We’ve been having a dialogue with our gal for eight years this month and to celebrate that, we’re taking the conversation offline,” says founder Sophia Amoruso. “The brand is visceral. We have always been about bold personalities, a strong look, and a specific sound, and this is the first time we will be combining all of those elements into a real life, physical experience.”
For the first few years, clothing retailer Bonobos was adamant that ecommerce is the future of retail and that stores were a bad economic decision. But with experience, they understood that many would-be customers were holding back on making a purchase because they wanted to feel the merchandise. "E-commerce is growing fast but that doesn't mean the offline world is going away-it just means it's changing." commented CEO Andy Dunn.
For all four of these ecommerce merchants, the decision to open retail stores was customer driven. It is clear that brick and mortar holds an advantage over ecommerce when it comes to creating an engaging shopping experience and connecting with customers on a more personal level.