Bonobos is a menswear retailer that launched in 2007 as an “aggressively online-only” brand. Since then, CEO Andy Dunn’s vision has changed drastically: recently, Dunn launched an experiential component of the Bonobos brand, while staying faithful to the company’s digital roots, through the invention of the “guideshop.”
Guideshops serve as Bonobos’ brick-and-mortar alternative. The innovative spaces are rooted in omnichannel principles, as Dunn hopes they’ll strike a balance between personal shopping and online shopping. Though Dunn was initially hesitant about creating a physical store presence for his brand, he quickly realized the lucrative advantages of brick and mortar: the average transaction size (ATS) in guideshops is double that of the online store. Dunn never looked back. Bonobos just opened its 30th guideshop.
Guideshops integrate the best aspects of online and offline shopping into a single physical space — but just how do they work, exactly?
Guideshops attempt to bring the major benefits of online shopping — e.g., continuous accessibility to products, ease of experience — to life. Each guideshop contains every suit, in every size, that the company’s online store displays. Moreover, sales associates are refereed to as “guides,”and they essentially serve as customers’ personal shoppers, available for individual consult and assistance.After customers find the perfect fit, the suits are shipped, arriving as quickly as two days later. This arrangement eliminates the hassle of carrying around big bags and streamlines the tailoring process. Customers can even book in-store appointments online — a feature that stands out as another example of how the company showcases its commitment to a creating seamless online-to-offline business model.
Another commonly cited advantage of a retail brand’s investment in a brick-and-mortar presence is that interactions with store associates help enliven a brand, thereby bringing the brand to life. As ShopperTrak, and countless other industry outlets – including, The Retail Doctor – have discussed, a personal touch is critical to not only getting customers to convert, but also to increasing ATS, once shoppers are in the store. Friendly and helpful associates encourage future store visits and increase customer satisfaction. This tends to be particularly true when a brand’s items are listed at a higher price point. Bonobos’ guideshops stand as living proof that “great retail has always centered around… the customer.”
Bonobos is not the first online-native brand to turn to brick and mortar. The introduction of offline stores to digitally native brands is a growing trend: many predominately online companies — such as, Amazon, Warby Parker, Birchbox, NastyGal, and Tie Bar — have seen high rates of success in making the online-to-offline transition. In the minds of many retailers, these growing companies showcase one of the many evolving roles that digital technology has come to play in retail: a role that does not replace physical shopping, but accompanies it. Clearly, brick-and-mortar stores are ‘well-suited’ for retail.