Ecommerce Brands Are Opening Up Stores—and Showing That Retail Still Has Life

The offline consumer experience remains important

Casper's Sleep Shop opened its doors this week.
Casper

Traditional retail might be struggling, but digital native brands like Everlane, a clothing company, and Casper, a mattress startup, are showing that there’s still room to reimagine the in-store experience.

Both companies are opening brick-and-mortar stores; Casper’s first in New York and Everlane’s second in San Francisco. The two companies join other digital retail brands like Amazon and Outdoor Voices, which have also opened physical stores or pop-up shops.

The Casper Sleep Shop opened this week in New York’s NoHo neighborhood. Consumers can view Casper’s products, like the mattress and bed, “in one of six miniature homes,” within the shop. Like the average mattress shop, Casper lets shoppers walk out of the shop with their purchase or have it delivered to their home.

Casper

Everlane returned to its hometown of San Francisco to open its second retail location in the Mission District on March 3. The store will tout its commitment to “transparency” with “rotating factory installations” in the store, as well as have a dedicated “returns bar.” Everlane’s first store opened in December in New York.

The dedicated "Returns Bar" at Everlane's San Francisco store.
Everlane

The company is hosting a series of of events celebrating the opening as well as donating $20,000 to the Dolores Street Community Services, a nonprofit dedicated to working with the low-income and immigrant community.

On the surface, it looks like these companies have simply opened up retail shops. But Kyle Wong, CEO and founder of Pixlee, a user-generated content marketing company, sees these digital native brands recognizing the power of brick and mortar.

“As they mature, digital vertically integrated brands more often than not extend offline—either through experiential physical retail or through exclusive partnerships,” said Wong. “However, these physical locations are deeply integrated with the overarching brand experience and their openings are heavily marketed with influencers, events, strategic content, and promotions.”

These retail stores are also a reminder of how vital the offline experience is.

“It is critical that traditional retailers remember that purchases aren’t a one-time interaction–they should be engaging with and reaching shoppers throughout their entire experience, investing equally across touch points to deliver seamless and memorable experiences,” said Cassandra Girard, vp head consumer and travel industries, SAP Hybris.

Everlane

Everlane CEO, Michael Preysman, also sees the stores as part of a larger experience that today’s consumers want.

A brand that has 500 stores no longer makes sense in today’s world,” said Preysman. “But having 20 to 50 key locations that help bring an expression of the brand to life is very relevant for the customer and we see people line up and come into the space and see it and part of it.”

To Jason Katz, svp, strategy ecommerce at Geometry, a marketing agency, the industry should expect more of these experiences in the future. 

“Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and launch of its Go store, Walmart’s acquisition of Jet, are indicators of what’s to come—seamless on/off-line shopping experiences built around the shopper,” said Katz.