Experience creates success: Online retailers show how

There’s something going on in the cities: Online retailers’ concepts rely on fine selection, touch and feel, and experience.

Experience creates success: Online retailers show how
© Casper Sleep GmbH

It closes again almost as soon as it opens: Amazon wants to benefit from the Christmas business with its pop-up store in Berlin. The retailer offers gift ideas for sale for just five days in late November. The atmospheric ambiance on Kurfürstendamm is designed to produce two results: stimulate the desire to buy, and then prompt visitors to take a look online. That’s where the merchandise awaits them.

Browse offline, buy online: more and more online retailers are betting on this tandem. eShops may have many advantages to offer. Endless shelves, for instance, featuring all the colors and shapes of a product you can imagine. Many delight in being able to order from bed, too. But there is one thing online business can’t offer: the feeling you get when you step into a shop. Feeling the products, experiencing them. With all your senses.


Worlds of experience: The big show and products you can touch

That’s what Amazon has in mind with its temporary store. It may be constantly present online, but the retailer wants to create another touchpoint along the customer journey. What it offers is the big show: There are starlets such as fitness influencer Sophia Thiel, and there are concerts with acts such as Lionshead. Cashing in along the way: in place of infinite variety, customers can come and hold a small selection of the available items in their hands. The main attraction in the range are the Cyber Week items. In this, Amazon also cooperates with manufacturers such as Samsung or L’Oréal. If a user likes a particular product, he or she can scan the QR code to order it directly in the Amazon app.

Casper is another company that relies on worlds of experience around its product. The mattress manufacturer opened stores in the US and Germany. First with partners: Target overseas and KaDeWe on this side of the Atlantic: as a store-in-store concept, the newbie in the bed market benefited from the range of coverage department stores had to offer. That’s how Casper increased awareness of its mattresses. The models have names like Felix, Leo or Emma – which is also a clever way to create customer focus. The retailer created an added physical presence through pop-up stores. This is how, step by step, the online retailer also became an offline retailer.

Casper recently opened its first permanent store in the States. The special thing about it: The shop offers a world of experience around its – admittedly rather boring – core product: mattresses. It regularly hosts events devoted to wellness and healthy sleep. The need exists: as studies have shown, more and more people are having problems sleeping – due to a lack of exercise as a result of digitalization, but also as a result of poor sleep hygiene.

Such a service on site offers lots of benefits: by teaching something about sleeping, it solves customers’ problems – and that bolsters customer loyalty. This has been shown to have a positive effect on customer loyalty.


Added value through content

These pure players have internalized a trick that traditional retailers need to recall and appreciate – before going on to play with it: the element of touch and feel creates trust. If a prospect has touched a product and found it good, the path to the checkout is not so far away. With their – for the most part – original products, retailers don’t need to worry that consumers will drift away to the competition to buy the item more cheaply.

They enter the price campaign offline, too. Like Boll & Branch. The startup relies on fair trade and uses organic materials for its bedding. These are also goods that – like mattresses – have been around for a long time. In New Jersey, they launched their first store in a shopping center that happens to be a destination for luxury brands. Nevertheless, they offer their products at prices that are much more reasonable than those of the competition. Score: one to zero.

Unlike their online competitors, Boll & Branch makes the score two to zero by letting prospective customers touch and experience the products. Their raw cotton can be touched, and the yarns used in products are displayed on the counter, where customers can admire their quality. “If you sell online, all you can do is show pictures and describe things, and people are also used to that,” co-founder Missy Tannen points out. “With our store, though, we can show them even more.” Tannen has pictures hanging on the walls. These show employees manufacturing the product. Many retailers have since begun telling their story on websites: but who ever thinks of telling his or her story right there in the store, at the point of sale?

The thrust into city centers makes sense: According to an EHI study, 57 percent of the 1000 online shops with the highest revenue have stationary stores, too. And that is where the bulk of their revenue is still generated. This is what makes the concept behind the first German Amazon store seem a success, too. At the Centro shopping center in Oberhausen, the retailer offers products such as Alexa, Echo and Kindle. Launched there two years ago as a pop-up store, it has since evolved into a permanent fixture. So it remains to be seen whether the store on Kurfürstendamm will actually stay open for just five days.

The bottom line:

The eTailers have understood: A person can quickly become overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities in the large online world. After all, most people appreciate being served a fine selection of products. Conversely, of course, traditional retailers are active online, too – but there is a special charm to the onliners’ approach: Their lack of touch and feel has only shown them how important the in-store experience is. That’s something they could learn from traditional retailers.