Online retailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos have been experimenting for years with pop-up stores and actual brick-and-mortar locations. The idea is that consumers might like to try on a pair of glasses or pants in person, or browse through a few options, and then get the item they want shipped to their home later. Because the retailer doesn’t need to keep the inventory on-hand, there isn’t a need for such a large retail footprint, and it encourages customers to interact with and grow accustomed to the brand.
This phenomenon of online-to-brick-and-mortar was the subject of a recent study conducted by ChargeItSpot, which provides cell phone charging stations for retailers and events. The company’s “2017 Online Retailer Report” looked at shoppers’ interest in shopping at stores opened by major online retailers, polling over 3,000 in-store shoppers at 11 malls across the country.
The survey found that 55% said they were likely to shop at a store opened by an online retailer, and of that group, 29% said they would “definitely” shop there while 26% said they would “probably” shop there. Meanwhile, an additional 28% of respondents said they would “maybe” shop at a store opened by an online retailer, while just 17% said they were unlikely to.
In an interview with Street Fight, ChargeItSpot CEO Douglas Baldasare said that the trend of ecommerce companies opening physical stores was likely to continue: “It’s a great way to build awareness for your online brand and it’s a great way to profitably acquire customers for the ecommerce site. The stores as standalones are profitable, and they also drive traffic to the site.”
He also noted that the brick-and-mortar stores save a lot on physical space at brick-and-mortar stores, because they don’t need to have all of their inventory on hand. Customers will try something on and buy it in the store, and the ecommerce company will then have their purchase shipped from a warehouse.
“You realize oftentimes you don’t need to walk out with a pair of pants or a shirt because you’re not going to wear it that day — you’re actually happier to have it shipped to your home so you don’t have to walk around that whole day with a package,” said Baldasare.
The study also found that millennial shoppers were the most likely demographic category to shop at a brick-and-mortar location opened by an ecommerce company, at 61%. Meanwhile, shoppers between the ages of 35-49 (57%) were the next most likely, followed by shoppers between the ages of 50-65 (43%).
Consumers’ reasons for shopping at an online retailer’s brick-and-mortar store varied, but the most common reason cited was convenience, at 42%. Other popular reasons included technology (20%), lower prices (13%), curiosity (10%) and curbside pickup (3%).
Baldasare said he wasn’t sure if this ecommerce-to-brick-and-mortar model could be retrofitted onto legacy retailer — largely because stores like Sears and Macy’s have built out their brands and systems to account for inventory.
“The way you see retailers try to adapt is ‘buy online, pick up in store’ — it’s basically using their physical stores as a way to satisfy instant gratification,” he said. “That way they can leverage what they already have in place.”
David Hirschman is a co-founder of Street Fight.