How innovative companies connect with consumers by putting product in their hands.
There has always been something of a rift between the filter-sort-buy style of online commerce and the touchy-feely brick-and-mortar retailers. The efficiency of online seems at odds with the meandering, emotional component of conventional shopping. Now a number of modern retailers are looking to close the divide.
In 2012 e-commerce-driven men’s clothing retailer Bonobos opened its first store. Well…calling them stores is not exactly accurate. They don’t have inventory for sale. These Guideshops, as Bonobos calls them, are meant to act as a showroom – allowing shoppers to pick out items and try on clothing. Consumers can be fitted and get advice from sales people, but if they decide to buy they have to order the merchandise online.
Philanthropically minded eyewear retailer Warby Parker has followed suit. Initially focused on online sales, the retailer now has 26 stores across the country. Like most Web-native retailers, Warby Parker still uses data and algorithms to create a personalized shopping experience.
Apple – one of the pioneers of this new breed of hands-on stores – is now taking it a step further. To get consumers more deeply engaged with Apple products they are offering a series of free art courses. Their Start Something New series gets consumers in touch with the iPad’s doodling and sketching functions as well as the advanced capabilities of the iPhone’s camera.
Closing this rift works both ways. Hallmark Cards, makers of paper greeting cards since 1910, recently created a holiday card with an augmented reality experience. Participating retailers sent these cards to their loyal consumers. After downloading software, recipients held these cards in front of the webcam on their computer and were treated to a 3-D animation. This particular greeting featured a rendition of “Jingle Bells” and an amusing image of a sleigh moving through freshly fallen snow. For Hallmark, connecting the tactile and digital worlds proved successful. The company estimates that for every dollar the retailer spent, $28 of revenue was generated.
It’s the best of both worlds.