It’s been a while since GE Capital Retail bank published in 2013 an annual shopper study showing that more than 80% of consumers start their search process online. Today, e-Commerce still only represents 10% of the total retail revenue, but without a doubt, digital channels influence brick and mortar sales more than ever.
We are seeing many pure etailers changing their ‘online only’ strategy and going physical by opening stores, and thus giving rise to the term from clicks to bricks. Retailers like Amazon, Bonobos, Warby Parkers, Birchbox or Indochino to name a few.
There was some buzz at the beginning of this year saying that
“2015 would be the year online retail gets physical”.
When asking Warby Parker’s visionary founder, Mr. Bluementhal, he answers literally: “As awesome as the internet is, somebody can experience a brand in a physical setting in a way that no digital experience can replicate,”
He thinks that online and offline worlds will merge in one: “In five years when people use the term ´retail,’ it’ll mean both physical and e-commerce. The phrase ‘e-commerce’ won’t even be used any more.”
“Physical stores improve customer experience by appealing to the five senses, where digital can’t reach”.
Customers want to feel, try and touch products. It is a method retailers also use to reinforce the communication message (who they are, what do they do) and connect with their customers. Because in the end, shopping is a social activity and the online world is not providing that personal experience yet, neither does it emotionally resonate. Having bricks and mortar brings more exposure and gravitas to the brand, for example, placing the store in a highly transited street; it will reach people that otherwise would not know about it.
Successful retailers are not just opening stores, but creating destination brands to deliver the promise of a seamless shopping experience in all channels. This was originally led by Apple and its Genius Bar.
Nike recently opened their “store of the future” in an attempt to deliver a fantastic service by means of state-of-the-art technology and well-trained staff. Despite customers buying the products somewhere else in the end, according to Andrea Weiss, founder of O Alliance in New York, “the company really gets that the customer journey is about all the ways people engage with the brand over a lifetime, not just where they make the transaction”.
We find other examples of retailers not focusing on increasing sales in their physical stores but excelling in customer service (or shall we call them showrooms?). For example, men’s apparel Bonobos or recently Indochino. They do not even hold inventory in their showrooms! Therefore associates are only dedicated to delivering great customer service and the purchase will be done later online.
These retailers are truly developing the emotional bond their loyal customers want. Their success relies on offering a multichannel, seamless shopping experience where they surely rely on a commerce platform that helps them deliver this promise faster and with lower risks.
Have you visited any of these “stores of the future”? We would love to hear about your experiences!