Online Retail’s Future is Offline

Retailers have had a busy year, to put it mildly. Most of the discussion has revolved around how brands should think digitally first. Drew Green, the CEO of Indochino (a made-to measure menswear company), ended the panel discussion at East with a powerful statement.

Green stated, “I believe that in the next five year’s, every online brand in one way or another will be offline.”

Green was joined by Kevin Lavelle (founder and CEO of Mizzen + Main); Cheryl Kaplan (president and cofounder of M.Gemi); and Emily Hofstetter (vice president, business development, and communications at Bombas. The panelists discussed the importance of combining a data-driven digital strategy and offline events. While the brands represented on this panel — Indochino and Mizzen + Main as well as M.Gemi and Bombas — may not have created strong online communities, offline strategies have allowed them to grow their customer base.

Kaplan stated that offline retail allows online retailers to connect with customers one-on-one and capitalize on experiential retail to create an experience customers will never forget. She stated that it was important to be creative and flexible.

Hofstetter continued by saying that retailers must have a clear goal before they use resources, i.e. time and money to go offline.


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She explained that you need to know your reason for going offline. Pop-ups are for a purpose. Pop-ups have been a great way to tell our brand’s story, and connect with the audience. “Offline is a way for consumers to engage with us.”

Lavelle emphasized the importance of an effective offline strategy and said that it is possible to use an online strategy with an offline strategy. He said that the most important thing was to be able to plan and manage your resources.

Green shared his top tip with the audience. He said, “I think that the keyword for an internet-only brand is “commitment.” This means that the entire company must commit to an omnicommerce strategy.


This is the Evolution of Retail

This is being called the retail apocalypse. According to recent reports, over 8600 retail stores will close in 2017. Comparatively, 6200 retail stores shut down during the 2008 economic downturn — an all time high.

Retailers such as The Sports Authority are now gone, and many others are following their lead: Gander Mountain and Macy’s, J.C. Penney, RadioShack, and J.C. Penney are just a few of the many retailers on the verge of collapse.

Do we need to start planning for the demise of retail as we know? Probably.

Despite the potential disaster, there are still retailers that rise above the rest, showing that the future is not bleak but bright. These retailers aren’t just online giants like but brick-and mortar retailers like Sephora and REI. These retailers are not only surviving but they are thriving. Their success is not a fluke.

These brick-and-mortar stores have discovered a way to differentiate themselves from Amazon, rather than trying to compete with Amazon’s endless selection of products at low prices. They have won the hearts and trust of their customers by doing this.

This isn’t the retail apocalypse. This is the evolution in retail and it’s long overdue.

Three Ways Retailers Can Help Change the Industry’s Fate

1. Make your experience dynamic

Sephora uses the differences between online shopping and offline shopping to tailor its customer’s experiences . This beauty retailer found a way that allowed technology to be integrated into its store experience, without sacrificing the traditional brick-and-mortar experience. This balance is not something that most retailers have found.

Sephora allows customers to interact with the products without the assistance of associates. To find the right products for you, scan your face to see your “ColorIQ”. Sephora’s mobile app allows customers to virtually “try on” all available lipstick colors through augmented reality.

Sephora offers ungated access, which is a benefit to those who are less tech-savvy than others. Sephora offers customers the opportunity to test out aspirational products at their convenience, rather than forcing them to interact with employees.

Sephora associates can help shoppers achieve perfect pouts, contour their eyebrows, and improve their contouring skills. Sephora is committed in hiring and training beauty enthusiasts who are available to share their passions and experiences.

Sephora shopping is more than just the product. It’s about the dynamic experience you have in store.

2. Stand up for something

REI declared it would not participate in the Black Friday shopping frenzy in 2015. The outdoor apparel and equipment retailer encouraged customers and staff to #OptOutside , rather than encouraging bargain shopping, crowds, and door-busters, and instead, they encouraged shoppers and store teams to .

It must have seemed absurd at first to close down a shop on the busiest days of the year. Since 1938, REI has been committed to getting people outside. This campaign was an ideal way to make a statement while also supporting a long-standing cause.

These are the results

Outdoor gurus and gear junkies flocked to the outdoors in large numbers. This campaign generated positive buzz that led to many more skiers heading out on the slopes. Forbes reports that REI saw a 9.3% revenue increase and more than 1,000,000 new members as a result of the campaign. Following its success, REI launched #OptOutside again in 2016. Similar results were achieved.

REI continues to look for new ways to inspire and demonstrate its passions. The retailer launched the Forces of Nature movement in April to transform the way the industry views women, both as employees and customers.

Mary Anderson, a woman who co-founded REI, is the founder of the company today. Despite REI’s strong internal history, the outdoor industry is dominated by male-dominated imagery, storytelling, and acknowledgment. REI hopes to change this by featuring women in its advertising and marketing materials. REI has donated $1 million to nonprofits that provide opportunities for women in the outdoor. REI will also host more than 1,000 events that are specifically for women.

REI shopping is more than just about the products you purchase. It’s about supporting causes.

3. Exclusions Available

Flight Club is a destination for sneaker enthusiasts from all over the world. Flight Club is the perfect place to go if you are looking for the pre-released Yeezys or the uber-exclusive Air Jordan 1’s. It all began with in 1999, which was an online marketplace that allowed consumers to buy hard-to-find shoes. Flight Club opened its first brick and mortar location in 2005 to showcase its authenticity, selection, and customers.

Online customers travel to New York City and Los Angeles to check out a Flight Club store , despite the seemingly endless access to their favorite sneaker. Sneakerheads spend hours discussing the history of shoes, footwear technology, and the latest fashion trends once they are there.

Flight Club is a highly competitive market and welcomes thousands of people every day to its two stores. It ships many products to its adoring customers around the globe and has been recognized for its ability to provide sought-after sneaker grails.

Flight Club shopping is not about great deals, it’s about finding a shoe that no one else can. You are the only one who can find these shoes.

It All Together

While retail naysayers might preach doom, there are some retailers who have found compelling reasons for consumers to interact with their brands. These retailers are succeeding. Their customers are also winning.

Retailers who can create memorable experiences, raise their cause or add an element of exclusivity to their retail offerings will change the face of retail. We’ll all be happier.


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