In-store personalization is more important now than ever, especially with Millennials and Generation Z wanting to feel more like a close friend than a customer. Online start-up retailers are showing us how it’s done. Digital native brands such as Everlane, a clothing company, Casper, a mattress startup, and Eyebobs, an eyewear retailer, are making an effort to reimagine this in-store experience by putting up physical stores around the U.S.
Eyebobs, first founded in 2001 by Julie Allinson, said on May 17th that they are opening two physical stores for the first time, according to Retail Dive. One is an 868 square-foot space in the Mall of America and the other will be in Orlando’s Florida Mall later this summer. The brand’s expansion is led by CEO Mike Hollenstein, who brought plenty of retail experience to drive Eyebob’s 2017 launch of its prescription eyewear, to help them break the mold of the traditional shopping experience. “Bobtender” stylists will staff the retail space to help customers skip all the nonsense and provide them with a unique frame that best suits their style and personality.
The online clothing company Everlane’s founder, Michael Preysman, told the New York Times five years ago that he would shut the company down before they ever get to physical retail. Now, with the evolving retail industry, it seems Preysman’s views have changed and the brand opened its first physical store on December 2nd of last year. According to the Washington Post, Preysman said this allows the company to reach new shoppers and interact more closely with existing ones. It’s impossible to keep up with customers’ needs and continue to be an e-commerce-only platform, which is why he eventually changed his mind.
Previously selling its items in Target and via their own 16 temporary shops, the online mattress start-up Casper opened its first physical store in the heart of downtown New York in February of this year, according to CNBC. The company has created a store prototype that aims to make the mattress shopping experience enjoyable and educational by making the layout cozy with bright colors. The shop features six bedrooms where consumers can test the mattresses out for themselves. New York is Casper’s top market, and so the company’s goal is to learn how shoppers react and plan from there.
These direct-to-consumer businesses are joining a growing list of e-retailers deciding to invest in bricks and mortar to build brand awareness and offer shoppers the opportunity to touch and feel products. Names such as Warby Parker, Allbirds, Away, M.Gemi, and Birch Box have also established a presence in physical retail within the past year. Creating an e-commerce website is a cheap and easy way to start up for companies, but it’s also important to keep up-to-date with consumers’ needs and in today’s world, it lies in physical storefronts.