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From online to offline. A new trend in E-Commmerce?

Posted on July 24, 2014 by Alexander Diegel

E-Commerce Powers are Branching Offline. Is this Trend Here to Stay?

It is no secret that e-commerce is bringing down many traditional in-store retailers, or at the very least, making them adjust their business model to incorporate online sales. Why then, are more and more e-commerce powers opening up traditional, brick-and-mortar storefronts?

Some companies, such as Bonobos, are using these “Guide Shops” as a long-term solution to boost online sales. Customers are encouraged to go the store, try on clothes and buy them, but, sticking with its original sales model, the purchase will then be shipped to the buyers, instead of walking out of the store clothes-in-hand, like the days of shopping at Macy’s.

“We said we would never be offline, and then, wait a second, we hit a big turning point. We realized offline really works,” said Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn in a recent article featured in the New York Times. But will guide shops and pop-up stores (short-term shops at a physical location) work in the long term, or is this a flash-in-the pan experiment to a proven and growing model?

“I think it’s here to last,” said Scott Raio, CTO and co-founder of the fine men’s retailer Combatant Gentlemen. “Combat Gent,” as it is commonly called, hosted a weekend-long event featuring pop-up shops in Los Angeles late last year.

“We sell suits, and the thing with suits is that a lot of the times our guests want to try it on, [to] check the fit, check the quality and things like that. So having the pop-up location allows them to see the product for themselves, and figure out if this is something they want to explore as an option. I think it’s definitely the way of the future when it comes to companies like ours,” explained Raio.

It was at these events that the fine men’s retailer took its own spin on pop-up shops and debuted its “Super Sweet Magic Mirror,” to further improve the in-store shopping experience for a core of customers that were accustomed to shopping online.

“The mirror helps us by transitioning the experience [customers] get online, offline,” said Raio. Aside from reinforcing the fact that Combatant Gentlemen is a technology company first, the mirror gives clientele “an experience they couldn’t normally have even in modern retail locations. It gives them something to come in, and leave with this whimsical attitude about the brand."

Like Bonobos’ guide shops, customers do not walk out of Combat Gent’s pop-up stores with their clothes, bag-in-hand. As avid fans of the experience Apple created for its customers, Raio’s company adopted the retail giant’s in-store capabilities for its own customers. Raio and his team developed a special device that allows buyers to do a seamless point of sale in-store, rather than completing the sale online at home.

In preparation for these popup and guide shops, companies like Bonobos and Combat Gent use Wombat to bring their finest and most popular items in front of customers. “Wombat allows us to do a lot of our backend reporting, so we can have better granular reporting when it comes to what sizes we are selling [and] what styles are popular,” said Raio. The first step to receiving the benefits of this granular reporting is to connect Wombat to receive data from you store.

Backing up the belief that guide and pop-up shops are the way of the future, Combatant Gentlemen has another event planned for New York later this year, and has several more planned for 2015. So the next time you find yourself shopping online and think to yourself, “this looks great, but I wish I could try it on,” keep an eye out! Stores like Combat Gent’s could be “popping up” at a location near you.

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