Brands with limited store footprints invest in sophisticated online merchandising to try and mimic the benefits of an in-store experience.
Over half of brands with fewer than 25 stores have online inventory integration on product pages according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail. These “low” or “five left” alerts push customers closer to conversion by creating scarcity and urgency. These brands also invest in rich category-specific merchandising to elevate the online browsing experience: In 2019, more home brands offer free swatches on product pages and more beauty brands include model imagery with multiple skin tones. Previously, such capabilities necessitated a store visit.
Furniture disruptor Interior Define continues to enhance product pages. In 2019, it launched a How It Sits feature showing videos of individuals of varying heights sitting down on products. Both innovative and remarkably simple, this allows customers to easily understand seat height and depth without visiting a store. Interior Define has only six stores, positioned as Guide Shops, that focus on more luxurious amenities and customer service rather than showcasing full assortments. Each location allows customers to book personalized consultations with designers, complete with the customer’s beverage of choice.
In contrast, brands with larger store footprints—like Pier 1 Imports, American Eagle or Foot Locker—prioritize pushing online consumers toward store locations with features that increase foot traffic. Two-thirds of brands with over 250 stores offer in-store pickup. Over half of those brands now geolocate consumers on their sites to provide current inventory at the closest store. In-store pickup maximizes the value of stores as both brand touchpoints and fulfillment centers. An estimated third of in-store pickup customers also buy additional products. Specialty retailers must continually iterate the approach to brand stores. Genius brand Sephora, once a disruptor itself, launched Sephora’s Next Big Thing in July 2019, a dedicated in-store space for up-and-coming makeup brands. Tested first in its Times Square location, Sephora plans to roll out Next Big Thing nationwide in time for the 2019 holiday season.