With the proliferation of direct to consumer brands, I am thinking about the hurdle of breaking into omnichannel retail. Online shopping offers the most convenient way to shop, but it has its limitations. If something isn’t right with an order, any adjustment requires setting up a return shipment. It’s a huge hassle; nobody wants to do that.
To break past the early adopters and reach a mainstream audience, brands need a physical presence to be competitive. Buy online, return in-store; try on in-store then buy online. People want these options, and sooner or later every direct to consumer brand will have to figure this out. Here are some example paths that are out there:
- The Nordstrom and The Black Tux partnership is a great example of this. The Black Tux brings introduces young shoppers to Nordstrom’s store and its brand. The Black Tux in exchange has a physical location to assist with order fulfillment. This symbiotic relationship is a complete win-win.
- For Warby Parker, they had little options when going up against the Luxottica empire. Opening their own stores to distribute was their only option to be able to match on convenience.
- Bonobos has showrooms for customers to see items in person and determine their size. You can’t buy anything there, they still expect people to order online.
It is expensive to do this physical expansion - especially when doing it on your own. I wonder if a service could exist to partner with these direct to consumer brands. Something that could offer any online brand the ability to do product showcases, fittings, and returns. One physical location could service 10-20 smaller brands.
With a fair amount of shared costs (floor space, labor, IT) this service could make a physical presence more affordable for online brands. Possibly so that they could offer this convenience sooner to early adopter customers. One challenge would be in enabling these companies to retain their unique brand.