The changing world of retail
In the 90's there was this thought that everything would go online and places like Ties.com thought that they would be the end all be all of the tie world and were worth a major investment. That world came to pass. BTW, Ties.com exists and I have no idea what they are worth but I am using that as a concept. Then came the next iteration where stores started to create their own online vehicles but instead of pulling inventory from their stock they bought a totally different inventory for that online site. That ended up being a bad thing. They were thinking that the online vehicle would be 20% of their business and bought accordingly.
Now we have come into a new world where the success of many online sites are starting to build out brick and mortar stores. Bonobos is a perfect example. The business began as an online site for great fitting mens pants. The brand was built and the brand grew. There is a desire from some of their consumers, more than likely in the urban pockets, to be able to walk into the stores and try on the pants or see other brands that they might begin to carry. It is all part of the experience. My guess is that Bonobos will eventually be 85% online and 15% in brick and mortar because those stores will an extension of their brand. You might find that you try on a pant there and still order it off an iPad and instead of bringing it home with you right there and then it shows up at your home later that day or the next pulling online inventory.
Look at Warby Parker, an online eye wear brand but opened up a small shop in the meat packing area. My gues is that store is pop-up but I would not be surprised to see them open up a permanent store somewhereEven Monocle, an international magazine, has opened a few brick and mortar stores across the globe as an extension of their brand.
There are also hundreds of online sites that have a certain edge, look and feel that have loyal customers. They have become someones go-to place to shop and that includes content from the site and other customers and perhaps more. I am not a fan of these sites making their money from affiliate fees but actually from figuring out the right inventory and running their online store like a brick and mortar store. Those stores will be the real winners. Building sites for other stores to benefit from your customer transaction is short term thinking and no brand loyalty.
Shopping is changing. It is interesting to watch. Retail has always continued to change as customers are always looking for something new which is why you have seen places Banana Republic change their look, feel and inventory at least 4 times over the past few decades. Retail is not easy. You have to always been thinking ahead and thinking in new ways. The idea of 85% online and 15% mortar makes total sense to me….at least in 2013.