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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ecommerce embraces brick-and-mortar for customer engagement

Retail analysts have observed a new trend in the retail community: ecommerce merchants are opening physical stores. Recent store openings by Warby Parker, Everlane and Amazon.com Inc. are indicative of consumers’ need to touch and feel products before they buy, analysts believe. In some cases, the people who appear to be most surprised by the return to brick-and-mortar are the retailers themselves.

In a Dec. 5, 2017, televised interview with CBS This Morning, Everlane Chief Executive Officer Michael Preysman said going from online-only to opening physical stores in San Francisco and New York City is a way to connect with customers and build community around his brand. He acknowledged it was an about-face from his 2012 interview with the New York Times, in which he declared he would shut the company down before going to physical retail.

We’re taking it slow, but there are more stores on the way,” he wrote in a statement. “With each one, we’ll continue to build community and bring great, ethical products to people around the country—and eventually, the world.”

End-to-end retail experience

Preysman said that while retailers create a continuous shopping journey across multiple channels, Everlane takes the process further by showing customers where products originated. Stores feature videos of fabrics being sewn and manufactured, to deepen relationships between customers and products. The company is also committed to transparent pricing, providing detailed material, hardware and labor costs for each product, he noted. Everlane expects these policies to appeal to a range of demographic sectors, which includes anyone from 18 to 65 years old, Preysman said. Many customers have expressed an interest in knowing more about a product’s provenance as well as its value and quality, and the company is responding by “trying to make products that last,” he added.

Unified commerce

Retailers are also trying to add mobile and automated solutions to brick-and-mortar stores, analysts noted. A February 2016 study by iQmetrix found 60 percent of shoppers would visit physical stores that provide online services. Survival Guide for Wireless Retailers: how to optimize store operations and customer experiences found irony in the fact that online retailers are returning to tried-and-true strategies in place since long before mobile payments were available.

“The popularity of mobile devices created a boom in the wireless retail space, especially for those with great product selection and expertise,” the report authors wrote. “Yet these same retailers are having a very hard time keeping up in a mobile-first world where consumers demand access to information any time, anywhere.” To solve these pain points, retailers must go “beyond fulfilling the needs of a population addicted to mobile in their day-to-day lives” by providing mobile and automated services inside physical stores, report authors suggested. This will help modernize the POS with next-generation systems that present a unified view of a business as a whole, including, “POS, CRM, Inventory Management, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Reporting and Analytics and Sales and Service Automation,” they added. end of article

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