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Articles on designing your own custom merch, growing your brand, and managing manufacturing as a small business.

Online Brands: Should You Open a Brick & Mortar Store?

December 22, 2018

Online Brands: Should You Open a Brick & Mortar Store?

Opening a brick-and-mortar store is a huge investment, not something to go into lightly. And in a climate where e-commerce and mobile shopping increasingly seem to rule, online brands may wonder if there’s a point to investing in physical stores.

It turns out that Doomsday thinking about brick-and-mortar shopping may be misguided. While e-commerce is undoubtedly booming, less than 10% of total retail sales happened online in 2017. Plenty of physical retailers continue to thrive in today’s market, albeit challenged by market fragmentation and the demand for ever faster service.

For those businesses that have withstood the dawn of e-commerce, the secret ingredient is diversifying your presence across multiple channels.

Embrace a Multi-Channel Experience

In building a competitive online clothing brand today, your goal is a seamless multi-channel experience. While it’s true that consumers want to be able to shop with a tap of the finger and receive quality products just as quickly, it’s also true that those same consumers still appreciate the ability to try on products in-person, not to mention speak with a knowledgeable, human staff member who understands their needs and values.

Instead of looking at a brick-and-mortar store as the next phase of a brand that’s outgrown its online digs, seek to enrich your customers’ experience with a new level of engagement. Offer customers the opportunity to shop wherever they are: online, on their phones, and – yes – in-person.

Setting the Foundation

Setting up a physical store doesn’t make sense for everyone, and it’s not a step you can rush into without lots of planning and lots of upfront cash. But for the right brand with the right vision – particularly online clothing brands consumers will want to try on – it can absolutely be done.

Ready to take your brand to the next level by bolstering e-commerce with a physical shopping experience? Make sure you have realistic responses to all of the following considerations. If you do, chances are you’re ready to move forward with a big, but important, step in expanding your brand presence and loyalty.

The Store

When it comes to renting the space of your dreams, there are a number of financial, geographical, and strategic questions you’ll need to consider.

As for your finances, a large part of your investment will go toward rent, any maintenance needed to get up and running, and insurance. Do your research before negotiating your lease – carefully consider your length of tenancy, for example – and think about consulting with a lawyer if you’re not well-versed in business leases. Of course, legal counsel is an extra expense you’ll need to factor into financing.

Beyond financial and legal considerations, be as strategic as possible with location. Your goal should be to meet customers where they are, so consider your consumers’ values and identity, know where and how they shop, and optimize your store’s layout. While you might not want to go full Amazon by letting an algorithm organize a limited selection, you can still make wise choices about where you place merchandise using data about real consumer behavior.

Making Sales

If you’ve been running an online clothing brand, you probably eat, sleep, and breathe the words “marketing and promotion.” But don’t assume your online brand presence will automatically translate to in-person sales.

Invest time and energy into a dedicated marketing campaign leading up to your store’s grand opening. Use your existing outlets – social media, partners and influencers – to pivot your brand’s story toward this new level of engagement you’re offering to customers.

Once customers have gotten in the door, you want their experience to feel like an extension of their online engagement. Consider what your loyal customers like most about your brand – maybe it’s the site’s streamlined organization, or super simple returns. Mimic that experience as closely as possible in your physical store.

Sourcing & Manufacturing

With all the other financial and logistical considerations weighing on your business, you’ll want to partner with manufacturers you can trust to get you quality products exactly when you need them. On-demand manufacturing gives you the agility you need to put down roots for your digital native brand.

Online clothing brands already take advantage of the low minimum order quantities, shorter lead times, and reduced inventory risk of on-demand manufacturing (ODM). With the ability to design and produce exactly what you need, only when you need it – and at lower upfront costs – you can use precious time, energy, and finances on opening the brick-and-mortar of your dreams, without worry about warehousing, overstock, brand dilution down the line.

Get Started with The/Studio

If reading this didn’t give you a panic attack, you might just be ready to get your brick-and-mortar off the ground. And if not, no worries. Take some time to gather resources, and rest assured that the future looks bright for digital brands – particularly with ODM services like those provided by The/Studio, giving businesses both big and small access to quality manufacturing, whenever and however they need it.