eTailers: Coming To A Store Near You

Although eCommerce-only businesses continue to thrive, it is interesting to see that a number of leading eTailers are now making significant investments in physical locations. Whether it’s Warby Parker opening retail stores across the country or Amazon acquiring Whole Foods, the list of online retailers that are building a presence in the brick and mortar world is growing.

It seems as if many of the top eTailers are now coming around to the fact that there are distinct advantages to brick and mortar retail locations that keep customers coming back. The ability to see and touch a product is important to shoppers, as is the gratification that comes with taking immediate possession of a product after it is purchased. Then there is the brand credibility factor. Some consumers perceive an online retailer to be more “legitimate” if it has at least a few physical locations. Brick and mortar locations also serve to generate awareness and help strengthen a company’s brand.

Online apparel retailer Fabletics offers a great example of the impact that just a few well-done brick and mortar stores can have. The “athleisure” company began opening stores last year and has since discovered a strong connection between physical store presence and online sales. In the markets where Fabletics has opened a brick and mortar store, online sales have grown significantly. Whether it’s due to increased visibility from these locations or the loyalty that comes from a quality store experience, the company has realized a positive impact from its physical store investments.

In addition to the marketing and sales benefits offered by a physical presence, brick and mortar stores also provide the opportunity for retailers to generate a powerful new set of customer data and insights. Fabletics, for example, uses in-store sales data to gauge product satisfaction and popularity. The stores essentially act as an ongoing focus group, providing the company with a constant stream of market feedback. With this information, they are able to make adjustments to online assortments and merchandising strategies. The company gives this example: if a pair of leggings is selling well in stores but poorly online, it likely means that the website needs better imagery.

Data captured from physical stores can be used to improve customer experiences in the physical store as well as online. By understanding a customer’s precise in-store location, for example, a retailer can deliver highly targeted and relevant mobile messages while the customer is shopping. They can also use physical store location information to personalize product recommendations and online experiences when that person visits the company’s website.

A well-done store experience will always hold significant value with shoppers, and for many eTailers, the benefits of increased brand awareness and omnichannel enablement that come from a physical presence may be too great to pass up.

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