Thursday, August 7, 2014



Ecommerce Companies Moving into Brick-and-Mortar Retail
by Kimberly A. Hawkins

Many a mornings, I start my design juices a flowin' by browsing the internet for cool-shit to buy -- click click click -- a few purchases with first cup of coffee and I'm fueled to begin a new project. It's my lil spark that gets me going, I don't spend a ton of time or money; online shopping is fun + immediate!

Watergraphics has a skincare client that only sells product on-line. Now they want to launch into retail box stores and we're pitching to help do just this. One of my favorite E-commerce companies failed at this (THREADLESS)--which truthfully, made me happy --I loooooove just the way it is. But the key with Threadless is that they offer a fantastic online-experience --it's more than the product. For my client, e-commerce is just one channel to purchase product: more channels = more product sold (let's hope).

Last year, online eyewear retailer Warby Parker announced that it would open a number of physical stores around the country. But the company was just the latest in a string of ecommerce firms to invest in physical locations. Bonobos, Frank and Oak and a handful of other online sellers have launched full-service brick-and-mortar stores in recent years, while eBay and Etsy piloted smaller initiatives in 2013 aimed at creating a bridge between their online marketplaces and the physical world.

With the bulk of retail sales still occurring offline, the rationale for ecommerce companies to consider local has always been compelling. But now, with more than half of adults in the U.S. owning a smartphone, the omni-channel vision, which many traditional retailers have envisioned for years, is quickly becoming a reality for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Macy’s has begun the process of merging inventory systems to allow customers to move seamlessly between in-store, mobile and online, while Amazon has invested heavily in creating a new local logistics infrastructure to support same-day local delivery.There’s a lot to learn out there, and the digital environment sets you up for success here. The wealth of information e-commerce businesses gather from their online customer base can inform all sorts of smart business decisions when considering the move to brick-and-mortar. Data regarding sales trends, product insight, consumer demand, profitable locations, and more allow companies to tailor in-store experiences accordingly, so straight off-the-bat, you’re setting up physical stores for a much higher success rate.

Data Fuels Cross-Channel Strategies

The cool thing is that e-commerce has easy-data gathering about its customers is not only used for online marketing efforts; the retailer is referring to the location of loyal online shoppers to drive brick-and-mortar investments.

Rather than guessing about where to open new stores (or place product), we can pinpoint core customers who purchase the most on a frequent basis. Then, we can look at a 10-mile radius to see which shopping malls align with the location of the largest cluster of our best customers.

This data-driven approach creates a highly integrated, customer-centric experience across all channels.

The relationship between online and brick-and-mortar is very synergistic. One doesn’t take away from the other; they build upon each other. So if a customer is buying on the site and you open a store near them, they’re going to go to that store and become even more immersed with the brand.

This is really cool --stay tuned to see how we roll out from e-commerce to retail store near you!

Kimberly A. Hawkins is principal of design firm, watergraphics

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