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Tapping Into the Future of Physical Retail

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

NEW YORK, United States — As the acceleration of e-commerce continues, the role of the store is being profoundly challenged. Why drive to the mall when department stores and luxury brands alike make their products accessible at one’s fingertips? 

Retailers no longer need prodigious fleets of stores in order to reach their shoppers. The coronavirus pandemic made this clearer than ever: brands and vendors from Gap to Zara are reducing their physical footprints. But the store isn’t dead; it's just evolving. Today, stores must be treated as marketing opportunities as well as marketplaces. They exist as spaces where shoppers can interact with products and engage with brands without necessarily completing a transaction. The store is a running ad, and if a consumer walks out without buying something, they will at least be more likely to return, or to seek out products online for purchase later. Digital goes hand-in-hand with brick-and-mortar commerce. Navigating this evolution will be critical for any brand or retailer hoping to grow in 2020 and beyond. 

However, embracing the new model of stores doesn’t mean rejecting the fundamentals of brick-and-mortar retail. Convenience, ease and good customer service are more critical than ever. What does that look like in a multichannel shopping ecosystem? How can brands and retailers balance these basics with the new digital demands of consumers? 

The purpose of this case study is to guide companies through a brick-and-mortar strategy to maximize sales — both in stores and online — in the post-pandemic market. We chose four retailers to illustrate different aspects of this challenge: Warby Parker, the digital native; luxury department store Neiman Marcus; Sephora, the makeup mecca facing new challenges due to Covid-19; and Browns, a London boutique that has invested in experiential retail under the ownership of the online marketplace Farfetch.

Every brand’s retail strategy will be determined to some extent by its own unique attributes. This case study will not provide a checklist of tools and technologies that every retailer must employ. Rather, it offers a framework for how fashion companies can contemplate the role of brick-and-mortar retail in their business objectives.

Business of Fashion feature written by Author Cathaleen Chen. To purchase the Case Study and read more, visit Business of Fashion.

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