There is ongoing change in the retail landscape. Both offline and online retailers now migrate towards hybrid solutions. Just as brick and mortar retailers have shifted towards online retailing, so did online pure-plays started engaging customers offline.
Retailers now need to combine the in-store pick-up options (which most online pure plays don’t have), an offline presence for information and branding purposes, as well as a way of pushing best-sellers into the market. At the lowest cost possible.
Bellow you’ll find two of the most promising directions, especially for online-first retailers:
Not to be confused with the term “drop shipping”, the drop shop is an offline facility that handles first and foremost package pick-up from customers. Such a need arises when customers do not want to subjected to shipping schedule but rather decide when and where to pick up ordered products. When dealing with such customer requests, offline-first retailers have the upper hand, as the existing store network provides support for customer pick-up options.
Slowly moving into the brick and mortar territory, online retailers discover innovative ways to handle customer offline interaction. One such example is the Amazon Locker. Its function is to allow customers to order products online and then pick-up the package from a near-by Locker.
As seen above, most Amazon Lockers are not exactly located in the most glamorous locations (here pictured near the lady’s room) but it does the job.
Customers could select the closest Amazon Locker, had their orders delivered there and then receive an email announcing the order is now available. To pick up orders, clients can either enter the pickup code in the central-unit computer or scan the mailed barcode.
So far Amazon tried its luck with the likes of Staples (second largest online retailer in the US), Radioshack and 7-Eleven. The promise to these companies was that Amazon has many customers and those that will want to pick up their packages from the Amazon Locker will probably buy something else from the store. The practice was not exactly successful as both Staples and Radioshack eventually dropped the project.
However, Amazon and the likes will probably not stop here, to increase sales they need to provide the customer with an way to experience product, as well as return and buy other products from their B&M operations. So far they didn’t need to, as others catered to the showrooming need. Soon enough, however, retailers able to price match will either become serious competitors and improve their online operations and then online retailers will have to battle on unknown land.
The drop shop will be a type of small to medium shop, probably affiliated with larger retail operations, providing customers for:
- package pick-up
- merchandise experience and testing
- returns and customer service
The pop-up store
The concept behind the pop-up store is a temporary location that exists for a short term, to provide marketing exposure or sell limited inventory items. It is not something that online retailers brought to the market but there are a lot using it right now.
Online stores that don’t operate B&M operations found the pop-up store an useful way to attract attention. It’s also a great way to provide sales outlets to customers during high sales periods, such as the holidays.
New brands, focused on retail online increasingly find that using pop-up stores is a great way to attract new customers. These customer acquisition tactic allows potential buyers to experience the brand, as well as its products.
For online retailer Fleur de Mal, setting up pop-up shops has been a great way to appeal to their fashion savvy target customers. Company representatives use pop-up shops to showcase their organic fiber fashion items to potential consumers throughout the US.
BAUBLEBAR, a fresh and innovative ecommerce startup focused on jewelry has seen brand recognition increase as soon as they started opening pop-up shops. Katherin Hill, director of offline at BAUBLEBAR outlined the main incentive to open a pop-up shop: “We see about half of the people who walk in to our pop-up shops have never heard of our brand before” [Source].
There are, however, several obstacles that need to be overcome, such as offline channel connectivity to the central server, as well as store design. The biggest challenge is to find the right spot to place the pop-up shops. As most online pure plays have a hard time navigating and understanding the complex offline retail rent environment, a new startup decided to step in and help small and medium retailers find the right store spot.
Storefront is a company connecting landlords to retailers. It works as a marketplace between the two types of users. As pop-up shop demand has been on the rise, the company launched a Pop-Up Shop blog and an eBook detailing the inner workings of setting up a pop-up shop.
Both the drop shop and the pop-up shop are hybrid solutions that point to the fact that online retailers feel the need to set foot in offline retail. The pressure to reach omnichannel retailing efficiency is, thus, equally felt by offline, as well as online pure plays.