The worlds of online and offline retail are merging with increasingly compelling examples of personalised product meets convenient service = winning combination.
The phy-gital retail trend is here to stay, exemplified by early adopters such as eBay, Bonobos, FAB and more recently Etsy, Birchbox and the trailblazing eyewear specialist Warby Parker. These online pure-players have all dipped their digital toes in physical waters, opening showroom and pop-up style stores with largely successful results (Warby Parker says its eight stores sell an average $3,000 worth of product per square foot annually, according to the Wall Street Journal).
The recent Financial Times report: Online clothes sellers seek a good fit for their business model, describes how the latest slew of phy-gital openings (including Trunk Club at Nordstrom and Rent the Runway) indicates the trend is still resonating with consumers, who like the opportunity to try on their choice of clothes before paying for them.
What’s interesting is that the phy-gital trend also works the other way. The flipside is that physical retailers are also enhancing the store experience with data-enriched shopping experiences that online retailers have been used to offering for years. As J Skyler Fernandes, MD of Simon Venture Group, said at the Wired Retail conference late last year, the mall is not dead, it just needs to embrace the digital natives that now shop there.
Now there are fresh innovations from online retailers that are taking the idea of showrooming to new levels.
Zappos wants to encourage customers to shop whenever, wherever and opened a 24/7 Holiday pop-up store in Las Vegas in partnership with e-commerce software specialist OrderWithMe. The showroom-style store mirrored what was available on the brand’s website and was a reference to the way consumers shop around the clock, globally. ‘You don’t go to Zappos.com at 3 am and they say, ‘We’re closed,” explained OrderWithMe CEO Jonathan Jenkins.
Virtual stores with physical locations are popping up in New York and London. I loved the 3D scan virtual store experiment from ShowStudio’s collaboration with MachineA in spring 2014, for its avant-garde approach to interactive retailing. More traditional in the showroom sense was the DL1961 digital denim pop-up that appeared in New York’s Meatpacking area for the Holiday period offering body-scanning, virtual fit advice and payment/delivery options in a single booth. ‘The DL1961 Digital Showroom is a way to take a product like ours that is based on touch and feel and translate it in a digital space,’ the brand’s creative director Sarah Ahmed told New York’s The Daily.
- As retail in 2015 re-invents itself courtesy of the digital age, physical stores and digital shopping habits will continue to merge. Personalisation, device-enhanced customer service and clever economies of scale such as localised click & collect (FarFetch is ahead of the curve on that one), will be the new rules of dynamic retailing. Virtual showrooming, billboards for store-fronts and data-crunching personal shoppers will all play a part in the phy-gitalisation of the retail experience in 2015.