D2C brands struggle as shopkeepers

While opening physical stores has become a common tactic for D2C brands hoping to go mainstream, it turns out they’re not that good at brick-and-mortar marketing.

New research from Blis, a marketing technology research company, says many of these shops are experiencing low levels of engagement with in-person experiences.

Casper performs best, in terms of visitors per location, and Allbirds does well, in terms of drawing consumers back over time. But all of them have a high turnover rate — meaning people walk out and don’t return — according to Mariana Fletcher, insights manager at Blis.

“Offline, these brands don’t trend as well,” she tells D2C FYI. Casper comes in ahead of Amazon stores in store-visit efficiency, or number of visitors per location. “I was expecting Amazon to a lot higher,” she says, “because so many more people are familiar with its name.”

But using Casper and Amazon as the standard for what’s expected for offline D2C performance, all the other brands Blis tracked — Bonobos, Rent the Runway, Allbirds, Warby Parker and Away — underperformed.

Fletcher says that’s it’s becoming clear that what makes a company stand out and get attention online can seem ordinary to consumers walking by. “It will not be easy for them if they project themselves as just another store on the street, unless people are already familiar with the brand,” she says.

Blis based its research on visitor traffic during May, June and July, watching people visit stores in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Overall, these stores have an average of 80% turnover. Only Allbirds did better, despite having the lowest base of consumers per store, with 19% of the total of consumers shopping in all three months.

Blis tracked unique visitors at each geofenced location, and then ranked brands that have already been able to drive shoppers into their brick-and-mortar locations.

Casper dominated the analysis, with its seven stores accounting for a whopping 56% of store visits. Amazon came next, with 22% of visits in four stores. Warby Parker came in third, with 23 stores in the research generating just 10% of total visits, followed by Bonobos, with 9% of total visits and 16 stores. Allbirds, with four stores; Away, with five stores; and Rent the Runway, with three stores, each drew 1% of the visits in the study.

“Visually,” says Fletcher, “they have to do a little bit more work to attract people.”

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