Stores still matter.
That was the consensus at this week’s Glossy Summit in Miami, where marketers from fashion and beauty brands gathered to discuss the state and future of the modern retailer.
Today, brands can’t afford to turn their backs on a retail channel. Along with wholesale partners and an e-commerce site, owned physical stores are essential for competing against industry giants like Amazon. With them, brands can provide unique experiences, collect data and better serve online customers.
“The light bulb has gone on, and now there’s a big rollback from brands focused on wholesale distribution; they’re trying to get closer to the consumer,” said an attending brand executive. “They had websites before, but they weren’t built out — now they’re driving to them. They closed brick-and-mortar stores, but they’re easing back with pop-ups. Things are shifting.”
Some have returned to their brick-and-mortar roots, while those that have kept stores intact are updating them to keep them relevant.
A small footprint is key, according to speaker Chris Bossola, founder and CEO of Need Supply, which has a store in Richmond, Virginia.
“The store is the soul of the company,” he said. “We’re continuing brick and mortar not on a quantity basis, but on a quality basis. And we’re doing renovations on a consistent basis.”
Here’s the role the store is playing today, according to this week’s speakers and attendees.
Providing an experience
As shopping online becomes increasingly convenient, basic stores can’t compete — so they need to offer up a valuable experience.
“The store of the future is about giving people a reason to come in,” said an attendee.
Some executives said their stores are now hosting workshops and classes relevant to their consumer. Kinfolk’s Brooklyn location has included a store, a coffee shop and a nightclub — all of which complement and interact with each other, said managing director Keith Abrams — since 2014.
“We designed [our] space so people will want to explore and discover…and that people will come to,” Abrams said. “We’re not going to chase people down. We’re just like, “This shit is hot, come through. If you don’t like it, don’t.”
Kinfolk does very little marketing; its popularity is largely the result of word of mouth.
It’s a similar case for the many stores being designed with social media in mind: Visiting influencers do ample marketing for them. Taking a standout selfie is the experience.
“Our brand is made for instagram,” said Aliza Licht, Alice + Olivia’s evp of brand marketing and communications. “If you walk into a store, you’re going to try something on, and there’s no way you won’t ’gram it.”
Brands are taking advantage of the fact that stores are troves of customer data.
Shawn Gold, CMO of TechStyle, which owns Fabletics among other brands, said every item in Fabletics stores is tracked, which benefits both the company and the customer. When it was determined size extra small was converting at a lower rate than other sizes in store, the brand altered the fit and solved the issue. Items customers try on can be placed in their online cart for easy access, and store associates can launch ad retargeting based on customers’ in-store behavior.
Of course, data collection can be simpler: While discussing content marketing, a social media manager for a designer fashion brand said she visits the company’s stores as often as possible to talk to store managers about customer behavior. “Your follower isn’t necessarily your customer,” she said. “It’s important to know what is actually selling and relevant to those who are actually shopping.”
Serving online customers
Many brands are transitioning their stores to distribution centers to expedite the shipping process; inventory for orders is being plucked from the location closest to the shopper, be it a warehouse or a brick-and-mortar store.
“Customers now know that if you buy five things at once, you could get five boxes. It’s buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere, and the customer doesn’t care,” said an attendee. “Eventually, we want to have one distribution center. For now, it’s just: What can we do to better manage inventory that’s cost-effective?”
In addition, brands are increasingly allowing customers to pick up and return online orders in store, though several reported issues with the process as it stands.
“The problem is our sales associates work on commission,” said one attendee. “When customers are buying online and picking up in store, what’s in it for the worker who helps them?”
Finally, late last year, online luxury resale brand Tradesy opened a showroom in Santa Monica to allow customers to experience “the best of the best” items first hand. “You want to see the Birkin before you buy it,” said Kamini Lane, the company’s CMO.
What brands are saying
Along with expert curation and quality product, storytelling was called out as a brand survival tool — and Gucci was repeatedly referenced as the brand doing it best.
“Gucci does a futuristic, modern-day version of surround-sound storytelling. They are the first company that has been able to achieve this through a luxury filter. They use both nostalgia and futurism in everything they do, and they allow their customer to live inside the brand’s bigger story.” –Kristen Naiman, head of brand creative at Kate Spade
“Everyone loves Gucci right now, because everyone loves the story of how Alessandro [Michele] came through the ranks. Everyone sees how real it is. He’s shaking it up; the brand’s story is being told in a new light.”
“People with entry-level salaries are lusting over Gucci and buying it. There are more Gucci loafers than anything else in our offices. They are legitimately fantastic as a brand right now.”
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