4 Ecommerce Companies Opening Brick-and-Mortar Stores
At one point in time, traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores and ecommerce shops were thought to be rivals. However, as time moves forward, we see the line that distinguishes the two blur slowly out of focus. By now, you have probably heard about the ecommerce giant Amazon opening up stores across the country. In fact, Amazon isn’t the only one taking the leap; there are a wide array of additional companies that began in ecommerce and have supplemented their business with a brick-and-mortar retail store.
Let’s take a look at some emerging brands that have roots buried deeply in ecommerce.
Considered to be somewhat of a founding pioneer of the online-only business model and heavy adoption of social media marketing, Bonobos began in 2007 and sold fitted men’s clothing directly to their customers’ homes. They opened some fitting rooms in their New York office and it was massively popular and pushed them to open physical stores in 2011. But Bonobos isn’t like a traditional retail clothing store; you can walk in, shop and speak with stylists, everything you buy will get shipped to their homes from one of their centralized warehouses. This innovative model keeps inventory costs and risks low.
Another example of an ecommerce store setting up shop in the real world, Warby Parker followed the now direct-to-consumer model that’s now prevalent in ecommerce, Warby Parker promised low prices for fashionable eyewear. The first retail store opened in Manhattan in 2013, they now have over 40 stores nationwide.
When Warby Parker first opened, it began with its CEO, Neil Blumenthal, letting customers into his apartment to try on glasses, he told Inc. “People would come in, and we would lay out the glasses on the dining room table,” Blumenthal said. “And we thought it was going to be a sub-optimal experience, but it ended up being a very special experience in that we could build relationships with our customers. They could try on all the glasses. We started to realize maybe there was a place for traditional bricks-and-mortar retail.”
Subscription boxes have become huge in the world of ecommerce. Due in no small part to BirchBox, an online-only makeup subscription service that offers monthly boxes of curated cosmetics in sample-sizes from a wide variety of well-known brands. In 2014, BirchBox opened a physical store in Manhattan where customers could sample and buy retail-sized items.
Way back in 2002, ModCloth began an internet-only vintage and retro-inspired accessories and apparel company. Over the years, they dipped their toes into the physical world of brick-and-mortar retail with a few scattered pop-up stores that were functionally similar to Bonobos’ showroom-style storefront. Shoppers entered the store, could try on a product, and anything they purchased would be shipped directly to their doorstep. ModCloth opened its first permanent shop in Austin, Texas in 2016 and may open many more.
These big-label brands are rapidly becoming the most recognizable names in fashion. Their humble roots in ecommerce can be replicated by just about anyone with the right product, a little bit of creativity and the right platform.
These brands are paving the way for many smaller ecommerce stores to grow exponentially and into the world of physical retail. Though, just because these brands have been able to pull off the ecommerce-to-storefront business model, doesn’t mean you can—or should—try.
Your ecommerce store has to be a smashing success before your brand awareness is strong enough to float a physical space. Operating a retail location also brings a host of operating decisions and expenses that make Shopify vs Magento comparisons seem trivial. Early-stage ecommerce entrepreneurs hoping they can one day evolve their company like the above shining examples should make sure to get their branding on-point from the beginning.
While opening an ecommerce store may not lead directly to the world of brick-and-mortar—it’s clear that the two are more beneficial to each other than previously thought.