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With everyone from brands to magazines tripping over themselves to ramp up e-commerce these day, it seems counterintuitive that online-only retailers are tapping back into the perks of shopping in the physical world. But they are. Amazon is making plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle, Piperlime is coming to New York, eBay has experimented with pop-up stores in New York and London, and now high-fashion retailers are experimenting with offline opportunities, too. Business of Fashion spoke with eyewear brand Warby Parker, high-end e-tailer Net-a-Porter, and the largest men's clothing brand ever launched on the web, Bonobos, to pin-point the various strategies that these online leaders are using to re-introduce to brick-and-mortar commerce into their virtual success. Here's the why, how, and where of their physical shopping game plans:
Dave Gilboa, co-founder of Warby Parker, told BoF that, "People will always want to touch, feel and try on certain items and it is impossible to replicate that online. When we launched Warby Parker, we intended to be a purely online business but we realised the biggest challenge to selling glasses online is getting the fit right."
Each of the three companies is taking a different approach. Bonobos has introduced a "multi-channel partnership" with Nordstrom in order to secure access to 100 stores across the United States, and is considering a flagship brick-and-mortar store.
Net-a-Porter has spearheaded a pop-up “window shops” strategy, which allows shoppers to scan products with iPads or iPhones. Also, another pop-up shop in New York’s West Village displays garments on mannequins while shoppers can make purchases through iPad kiosks. Net-a-Porter told BoF that the company is pleased with the results and adds, “The aim was to produce an innovative shopping and browsing experience that bridges the divide between traditional and online retail."
Instead of stores or pp-ups, Warby Parker has launched a number of “showroom” spaces, which are less expensive to maintain. "[W]e do not intend to have a chain of brick-and-mortar stores but we are exploring creating a unique offline flagship store that would feel very different from any other optical shop in the world," the brand said.
In line with their online business, Net-a-Porter's window shops have gone international, opening in Paris, London, New York, Berlin, and Sydney.
Bonobos and Warby Parker, on the other hand, are keeping things domestic. In addition to their Nordstrom partnership, Bonobos is is looking into building brick-and-mortar shop in Boston, while Warby Parker's showroom spaces are in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Oklahoma City, Columbus, and Chicago, among other major US cities.