How DTC brands are changing the in-store experience


Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are increasingly turning to stores in order to continue their growth. However, if companies like Warby Parker and Allbirds have taught budding brands anything, it’s that the journey to omnichannel can be fraught with pitfalls — and financial losses — if a firm strategy isn’t in place. square.

That’s why a panel of executives representing DTC brands at different stages of growth came together for a panel at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo. The brands spanned the bedding, jewelry, and footwear categories and all had very distinct brick-and-mortar strategies. The conversation revealed several invaluable lessons and best practices for other DTC brands in the audience. Some of the more notable nuggets of wisdom included:

Leverage data to assess opportunities and nuances

Cross-channel attribution becomes more difficult as buying habits become more sporadic. However, as Brooklinen becomes an omnichannel company, co-founder and CEO Rich Fulop is focused on implementing tools that help create a more comprehensive, centralized view of data.

“I don’t care as much about where we acquire customers, I just want them to have great experiences with our brand and come back for more,” Fulop explained. “However, I want to make sure that all places Brooklinen is represented, whether on Amazon or in our physical stores, present what people expect from us.”

However, Fulop has learned that the needs of online consumers and those of in-store shoppers are very different, which is why the data and insights will be especially useful in the future as more Brooklinen stores open and the brand strives to create a more localized store experience. On the day of the session (May 11, 2022), Fulop noted that the brand had two stores and was opening four more in the United States in the next 45 days. With such an accelerated roadmap, a precise plan based on solid data and qualitative conversations is essential.

“Our process isn’t super scientific right now, and that’s kind of the beauty of it,” Fulop explained. But with more locations to come, “the complexity is about to get a whole lot harder. We use data to try to determine where we are over-penetrated and under-penetrated in the market and rely on our awareness, so that we have a good start in these markets. Then the qualitative element is that every day our store managers write a summary of the day’s sales. In addition to sales, it describes what customers were asking for, whether the rain brought more customers – we filter this information so we can react.

Brilliant Earth is another “ultra-data-driven organization,” according to Lisa Perlmutter, the company’s senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce. “Before we open a showroom, we look at where we think there are advantages and opportunities in our business. We really look to see where there is pent-up demand from our online channels, and then we let’s look at this with demographics in the next cities we plan to expand into.

Perlmutter noted that it’s extremely important for organizations to be more data-driven when making store opening decisions as market conditions change and rental agreements change in specific markets.

A rendering of the Brooklinen store in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Brooklinen

Create spaces that support intimate service

Consumers are used to shopping from the comfort of their own homes. If they decide to venture into a store, you can be sure they are looking for a different experience, whether through great service or a beautiful, engaging atmosphere. Brilliant Earth checks all of these boxes with its showrooms, which are designed to make customers feel at home and facilitate personalized service.

“Our showrooms have a living room feel to them – they’re very cozy and not at all like some of the jewelry stores you might see in a mall,” Perlmutter noted. “Then we have these individual rooms where clients have a dialogue and a relationship with our jewelry specialists.”

To help specialists prepare for these conversations, Brilliant Earth ensures they have all the context they need about customers: the styles they’ve browsed on digital channels, the diamond and the setting. they want, the fine jewelry they’ve browsed, and even the conversations they’ve had with brand reps over phone and chat. The specialists even prepare the appointments by ensuring that all the products are pre-picked and displayed in advance.

“When some companies scale, there’s a channel conflict,” Perlmutter said. “But we see him as one customer and we are happy when our customer is shopping both in our showrooms and online, and through our phones and chats. It has become a fundamental principle to stimulate the growth of our showroom.

Brilliant Earth stores are strategically designed to support intimate and organized service.
Photo credit: Shining Earth

Go small to create a big impression

For Alvies, a growing Texas-based shoe brand, close ties are at the heart of the brand. The company’s founder and CEO, Alvie Faulkenbery, noted that the brand started (and successfully grew) from “super personal connections” formed through its first short-term in-store experience concept: an Airstream trailer.

“We’re talking 200 square feet of an Airstream,” Falkenbery said. “When someone came in, we turned on southern hospitality, started asking questions and trying to figure out who the person was and what they liked about us.” He explained that these discovery discussions helped his team to really understand customers and the team used this information to guide the creation of Alvies Boot Parties, which offers bootfitting and styling services directly to consumers in the region. from Austin, Texas. Although the parties are now very localized, Falkenbery noted that the plan is to expand the service nationwide in the future.

Boot Parties are designed to be small, intimate and highly personalized, which means they big impression. Falkenberry and his team ask hosts what food and drink they want and which boots they want to have in their curated inventory. Everything comes together to create a memorable and highly tactile experience.

“We had to bring a semi-truck if we wanted to bring all the boots they might want to try on, so making sure we have a small assortment is key,” Falkenbarry explained. “Then, on the day itself, we try to figure out how we collect customer data in person. Now the question is how do we adapt that and ensure that we continue to capture that same level of experience.


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