Local shops have battled chain stores for years. Now, get ready for a new competitor, the online merchant with a neighborhood store. Some consumers still want to touch, feel and try on the merchandise. And online retailers have the funding. So why not experiment with “new media”, so to speak, a store floor. Here’s a quick check-up on the movement from clicks to bricks.
Online jeweler Blue Nile pioneered the “Webroom” with its first New York City launch in June, 2015, a new vision beyond the traditional store that combines all the digital tactics of an online location with a physical experience, giving consumers an entirely new shopping experience. This coming summer, it’s set to open its fourth store location in Portland, Oregon. In Blue Nile Webrooms, shoppers have the opportunity to view, handle, and try on the merchandise in person, with help from noncommissioned salespeople if desired, but the checkout experience is purely digital, where all transaction happen online via in-store tablets and consumers still enjoy online prices.
The king of all online retailers is also taking its business and concept back to the brick and mortar setup. Amazon opened its first physical bookstore store in November, 2015, in Seattle, and is set to open a second bookstore in San Diego this summer. While these stores are a small part of Amazon’s business focus, it envisions using these stores to build its brand, provide hands-on support for Amazon electronics, and offer convenience to local customers.
Last summer, popular menswear e-tailor Bonobos launched an entirely retail store concept in the heart of Manhattan on Fifth Avenue: a store where you can’t actually leave with any merchandise. Rather than a traditional retail location, Bonobos has innovated a concept called a “guideshop,” with 17 locations across the country. Consumers can come into what amounts to a showroom, try things on, get help and advice from salespeople, and place an order, and then have it shipped to them for free.
With its flagship store already located in NYC’s Soho shopping district, beauty supply retailer Birchbox is set to open two additional permanent stores this year. For Birchbox, the drive for going “brick and mortar” is to educate consumers about the brand and allow them to interact with the products. The company started as a subscription service for beauty product samples and hopes that its physical locations will push its line of full-size beauty products.