With consumers spending billions of dollars every year in North America, people are shopping online, and shopping a lot. Many online brands are now looking to evolve their relationship with their customers by opening retail locations in key markets that offer shoppers convenient and curated retail experiences right where they live. This clicks-to-bricks phenomenon has been pioneered by successful online consumer brands like Warby Parker, Bonobos, Indochino, and now, even Amazon is getting in the omni-channel game.
This month, Indochino opened its eighth showroom—the first of several planned additions for 2016. It’s been less than two years since we opened our first showroom, and currently our retail stores make up almost 50 per cent of the business. The decision to become an omni-channel brand was clearly right for us.
Pivoting the business model was not a move we made made lightly, however. Before opening the doors of our first showroom in Toronto in August 2014, we spent three years trialling the Indochino retail experience in 18 different North American cities through a series of pop-ups called Traveling Tailor.
If you think opening retail outlets is the right choice for your online brand, before you throw a dart at the map to choose a location, I recommend experimenting with a series of short-term, low-commitment pop-up shops. The lessons we learned, and the insights we gained through Traveling Tailor proved invaluable to the business as we transitioned from online to omni-channel, and these same benefits can be realized by any brand following on the same path.
Testing the Waters
Pop-ups are relatively easy and quick to initiate and, with a little planning, make it possible to test several potential markets in a short period of time.
Our Traveling Tailor events brought Indochino to customers all over North America, from Vancouver to Orlando, and the response we encountered in these cities deeply informed our planning when we began looking into permanent retail locations.
Serving it Right
People shop differently in person versus online. Pop-ups will teach you a lot about what customers want to see from you in a brick and mortar environment—how they interact with your product, which methods of display are more effective, even what kind of things are important for your retail staff to communicate.
Online shopping is inherently solitary and we presumed that men would also shop alone. In fact, we discovered that when shopping for suits, men often bring somebody with them or shop in groups. This revelation inspired us to change many aspects of our retail format, from the appointment process itself to the seating arrangements in the showroom, to accommodate our customers’ preferred way to shop.
Getting to know your customer through short-term, pop-up interactions will help you effectively and successfully translate the online experience into a physical environment.
Building a Better Brand
Pure ecommerce brands rarely, if ever, come face to face with their customers. This means there may be customer pain points that remain invisible to the online retailer. Pop-ups bring you and your customer together to open an entirely new channel of communication.
What you hear from your customers in-store will allow you to adjust and improve your online products and services, ensuring that, once you are ready to move to bricks and mortar, you’ll offer a seamless omni-channel experience.
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