There has been enough written on the impact of online retail models on traditional brick and mortar particularly in the fashion retail space. Consumers are after all more tech-savvy than ever and shopping would at some point have to respond to this behavior.
Online retail has had the advantages of low overheads, a global reach and real time communication to the end customer. Traditional retail threatened by online retail’s impact (the latter was supposed to be the former’s death knell) has been embracing technology at a very fast pace to compete with the online phenomenon and to also enhance customer experience.
What has been interesting is to see that successful online retail brands like
Net-A-Porter, Ebay are testing offline presences in the form of pop up shops and collaborations with traditional retail formats. What is also clear is that these players are not backtracking to a traditional model but are trying to bridge the gaps in the online customer experience, a journey which does not have the essential see, touch, feel and try and where the contact with the product is delayed till the purchase is delivered.
It also enables these online brands to strengthen brand salience and trust by bringing the designer in direct contact with the customer. The exclusive launch of Karl Lagerfield through Net a Porter is once such path breaking event and this strategy fosters a closer relationship with the design partners and customers.
This is also a great way to achieve greater success for new collection launches and follows the “limited edition launch strategy” pioneered by heritage luxury brands in the last decade. To summarize, these initiatives only create greater desirability and loyalty enriching the online experience.
The new approach is also helping online brands to build new alliances and broaden the net by acquiring new customer segments through partnerships with fashion magazines like Vogue, Private Member Clubs, Restaurants and other relevant channels. It will be interesting to see how successful online brands are in integrating off line channels and promotions in their business models in the years to come. Will On-line go Off-line? Are we seeing a role reversal? Will we see a new retail format between online and traditional brick and mortar. Only time can tell. But the lines are definitely blurring!