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With all the talk about online strategies, it’s easy for direct-to-consumer (D2C) retailers to ignore the opportunities available in offline channels such as brick-and-mortar stores. This is unfortunate, since 82% of millennials prefer to shop brands with physical stores, and 80% of Gen Z look forward to in-store shopping. So, what’s the solution? By syncing your physical and digital channels, you can provide an amazing “phygital” (physical + digital) experience that seamlessly incorporates all of your touchpoints with your customers.
Online, current and future customers can access products of all sizes and variations, but can’t touch or wear the products before they buy them. While online searches are convenient, consumers prefer to try or experience high-ticket items before buying them; nearly 71% of shoppers in physical stores spend more than $50, compared to 54% online shoppers who spend the same.
This reality has caused numerous online-only brands to open up physical stores, and explore other offline channels to provide a truly immersive experience for their customers. Here are seven lessons learned in going phygital.
Allbirds, a New Zealand footwear company, began as an online-only store in 2014, but has since opened 15 stores in recent years so customers can try on shoes before buying them. When planning the store’s layout, Allbirds made sure to keep the customer experience as the driving focus. For example, they designed custom furniture that makes trying on shoes easy, and only featured a curated shoe selection that’s sorted by type and style. Although they’ve now moved from online-only to an omnichannel strategy, Allbirds has maintained the thoughtfulness and customer-centric focus that characterizes its brand.
Pop-up or temporary stores have become a way for brands to provide an in-store experience without the hefty investment or logistical concerns of a dedicated storefront. Adore Me, a lingerie brand, set up a pop-up in the middle of New York City that featured a 9-hour-long photoshoot and a selfie wall for visitors. They offered coupons at the shop that were only redeemable online, incentivizing new and existing customers to visit their website for sales and discounts.
If pop-ups seem promising to you, you might try experimenting with seasonal pop-ups and possibly vary your locations. Julie Wainwright reimagined luxury clothing when she founded RealReal, a company that champions consignment for luxury brands like Saint Laurent and Hermes. After seeing enormous online success, Wainwright used the holiday season rush in New York to test whether a brick-and-mortar setting would see the same success. RealReal used its first pop-up shop to introduce people to its brand and clothing products. Within the first two weeks, the shop brought in about $2 million in revenue. Due to the success of their first physical location, RealReal opened up its first permanent storefront in 2017.
How do you bring fragrance to life? It’s simple: You create an interactive gallery-style exhibit that turns scents into sensory art. Glade’s Museum of Feelings (yes, there is such as place) provided visitors with a multi-sensory experience in rooms with names such as “Optimism,” “Joy,” and “Exhilarated,” evoking a specific emotion in each room through the usage of visual effects, sounds, and fragrant scents. This well-executed event earned more than 30,000 media placements and 892 million social impressions. Glade also enhanced the experience by partnering with Twitter to create MoodLens, a filter for profile pictures that changes based on your mood.
Since it can be hard for online-only companies to add offline channels to their operations and marketing strategies, some brands set up temporary booths in existing storefronts that aren’t necessarily owned by them. Known as “pop-ins,” Johnny Cupcakes, the world’s only T-shirt bakery, hosted a pop-in at Sugar Monster in Brooklyn. By partnering with a company that provides complementary products, new brands such as Johnny Cupcakes can attract a new audience for themselves, as well as the company managing the space.
When they opened their first store in 2017, Boll & Branch, a premium online retailer specializing in organic cotton products, decided to make sure customers learned something about their products, company, and overall mission while shopping in their store. Whether they’re touching raw cotton or glancing at photos of old factories and farms, visitors can learn and experience the company’s product line while they shop.
They say content is king — so fashion brand NET-A-PORTER uses its print magazine, Porter, to support its wide range of online product listings. After downloading NET-A-PORTER’s app, readers can use their smartphone to scan pages and buy the products they’ve just viewed in the magazine. While this read-and-scan function isn’t as immersive as letting customers try on clothing, it does help NET-A-PORTER create FOMO in readers as they read the magazine.
As you build a successful omnichannel experience, remember to sync, not abandon, your offline channels to create an immersive customer experience. Whether you opt for a simple pop-up or develop an impressive display, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re providing a well-rounded experience for your customers. This starts with thinking creatively about your brand and how you can attract more customers for the long term.
Now that you know what the term "phygital" means, let's explore how you can take a phygital experience to the next level.
Originally published on March 2nd, 2020, last updated on June 22nd, 2022.