Digital to physical: how online brands are faring in brick & mortar

Studying digital brands who made the jump to offline

During the warm, boutique-shopping-friendly months of May, June and July of 2019, Blis observed in-store visitors to seven popular direct-to-consumer brands that took their businesses offline. These digitally native brands opened shops in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The goal of our observation was to use our data to discover which brands have taken their virtual businesses more successfully into the real-world retail game, displayed in this accompanying infographic.

A Look at DTC Brands in Brick-and-Mortar

The brands we included in our study are names with which you’re probably familiar, thanks to their prolific media buys. We looked at DTC darlings Warby Parker, Casper, Bonobos, Amazon, Allbirds, Away, and Rent the Runway. We geofenced their showrooms in major cities across the US.

Because we look at unique visitors per geofenced location, and then adjust our view to flatten seasonality and respect the relative “new-ness” of some of these stores, we can rank which brands have already been able to drive shoppers into their brick and mortar versions, and whether their consumers trends point in-store or online. Blis’ footfall flow is a model that allows brands to quantify trends through observations of natural consumer streams.

The Results

According to the footfall flow, Casper came out ahead of Amazon stores in footfall efficiency. (This is our term for the number of visitors per location.) That means that Casper drove more consumers inside than Amazon stores during the three months we observed them. All other brands are still below the expected numbers for DTCs offline – a number which is very much dictated by the top two brands – Casper and Amazon – when it comes to establishing the norms for efficiency.

Time-lapse data comparison allows us to quantify trends. Despite not yet reaching the DTC physical traffic norms, Away, Rent the Runway, and Bonobos still see consumers flowing in, trending offline. Allbirds shoppers tends to gravitate more online than offline. Warby Parker customers are in a plateau zone, like Casper and Amazon store consumers (at least during the months observed).

Winning at the Street Fight

What’s amazing about these brands is that they took a big step and believed in their consumers, trusting that their online fans would embrace them on the street. Like many successful direct sales organizations, these brands take their data seriously, and listen to their customers. But the street fight is a very different game. If they didn’t somehow materialize their digital edge into their stores – and stay true to their brand promise and the service-level their customers have grown to expect – they would likely just get lost among the other store on Main Street or in the mall.

Digitalization and experimentation supplement each other in the physical space. For a DTC brand, it’s not just a matter of creating a physical space for consumers to try out their products. Customers of digital-first brands are generally happy to shop their products and services online exclusively, never entering a physical retail space, and that’s a key understanding for success.

For DTCs, success is about building a brand experience that matters to their clients – and that’s a metric that becomes nearly as important as sales. To win, they need to incorporate observed insights — like location data — to ensure they’re capturing actual consumer behaviors and preferences and create the right experiences to keep them coming back in-store.

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