Since the mid-1990s, when giants such as Amazon and Alibaba launched, the e-commerce industry has steadily been on the rise and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. According to Statista, revenue from e-commerce sales in 2021 amounted to $469.2 billion dollars and is expected to continue to increase. The staggering popularity of online retailers has resulted in many brick-and-mortar establishments aggressively moving their businesses into the virtual sphere. Recently, however, the reverse is also happening with successful online companies opening up physical stores.
Recent Trends in the Retail World
E-commerce has changed the way we shop. Instead of looking for vacant parking spaces in packed parking lots, walking up and down shopping aisles, and lining up to check out, online shopping has allowed us to easily select and pay for the products we want without ever leaving home.
So why are already successful online retailers opening retail stores?
The emergence of this new trend, which is called “clicks to bricks,” is mainly the result of other recent retail trends, all geared towards improving customer experience. A company such as Warby Parker, which has differentiated itself from competitors by mailing prospective customers a selection of frames to “try before they buy,” is a good example. According to co-CEO, Neil Blumenthal, Americans actually prefer buying their glasses in person.
What brick-and-mortar stores offer, then, is the ability for customers to physically see and touch products before they make a purchase. Buying products in a physical store also provides customers with instant satisfaction, since they walk away with their purchases instead of having to wait for the delivery man. In addition, brick-and-mortar stores simplify returns. It's sometimes easier to swap the wrong size jeans around for a better fit at a physical store than trying to do so with an online purchase where there is no physical store to go to.
Casper Sleep is a good example of innovative developments when it comes to setting up brick-and-mortar shops. This e-commerce company, which started out selling “mattresses in a box” online in 2014, has been a huge hit. In addition to its online presence, the company started launching multiple retail locations in 2019. Before this move, the online retailer tested the waters by piloting innovative pop-up ventures.
In 2018, for instance, the company set up temporary nap pods in various Indigo Books and Music locations in Canada, so that people could try out their mattresses. In the same year, Casper also announced the launch of its concept store, called The Dreamery, which is essentially a nap room where visitors can rest, relax, and recharge for 45 minutes. Apart from a comfortable mattress, visitors also receive pajamas and toiletries.
According to Philip Krim, CEO of Casper, they are not only selling mattresses and other sleep products, such as sheets, pillows, and duvets. They are also marketing themselves as the world’s first global sleep brand, and setting up brick-and-mortar shops is helping them connect with their customers. However, Krim states, the company is striving to be the antithesis of the traditional mattress store with its fluorescent lights and commission salespeople. The days of poor retail, he states, are numbered.
Even the online retail giant, Amazon, has entered the brick-and-mortar retail space with its innovative Amazon Go concept in recent years. Amazon Go is a Just Walk Out Shopping store, which provides consumers with a checkout-free shopping experience. Amazon says that this shopping concept is based on the same technologies that are used in self-driving cars, namely deep learning, computer vision, and sensor fusion.
Shopping at Amazon Go works like this: When you enter the store, you open the Amazon Go app on your phone and you receive an in-store code. You can then browse and shop as you would do in ordinary shops. Once you’re done, you can just leave! This means no waiting at checkout points or physically paying for the goods. The Just Walk Out technologies automatically detect when you take a product from the shelf.
Although they may be the potential for technical glitches or theft, innovative shopping solutions such as Just Walk Out Shopping are here to stay. And so, it seems, is the retail trend of merging "bricks" and "clicks."
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