Toronto-based tech startup StickerYou is set to lead the trend in small and medium sized e-comm businesses pursuing omnichannel strategies when it opens a physical retail location in downtown Toronto this summer.
Advertising rates are rising in an increasingly crowded online marketplace, and retail store rents are dropping as shops go under from the e-commerce onslaught. Savvy e-commerce entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the gap and are opening up for business in brick and mortar shops.Though e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba have long played in the omnichannel space, a new generation of smaller e-commerce businesses are following suit, including Shopify, Endy, Mejuri and StickerYou. The rise of small to medium-sized e-comm players moving into physical locations represents an important shift in e-comm and retail, which will affect not only the e-comm and retail landscapes, but also that of commercial real estate as well.
These brick and mortar shops are reinventing the way that both customers and businesses think about retail. It’s less about profits earned from products sold in-store, and more about how the retail locations drive e-comm sales. Evaluating whether an omnichannel strategy is the way forward for many e-comm businesses will require a dive into current online marketing costs, and creating theoretical models that take into account aspects of the brick and mortar location, such as potential passby traffic and in-store drop-ins. “An omnichannel strategy will appeal to e-comm retailers that are after increased brand awareness and unique marketing opportunities that make the most of a product that is best experienced in person,” says StickerYou CEO Andrew Witkin.
StickerYou uses proprietary technology that allows customers to create and order die-cut sticky products, including custom stickers, custom labels, iron-ons, decals, patches, name badges and temporary tattoos. “There is a big difference between seeing a sticker design on a screen and feeling the quality of the product in your hands,” says Witkin. “For us, a tangible offline experience is a powerful marketing tool, which is why we’ve decided to open StickerYou: The Store. By giving customers the chance to experience our product in real time, we plan to drive brand awareness in a way that is just not possible in an e-commerce-only store.”
Though a brick-and-mortar retail space may not generate profits in the traditional sense, StickerYou believes that a storefront provides significant value that online ad impressions don’t that can translate into an overall gain. The store may technically operate at a loss if you look at operating costs compared with product sold, but retail can still work and be ROI positive if or when the incremental traffic from retail driven to the website is less costly than using such funds to pay for online traffic.
If the store breaks even, all subsequent marketing value generated by the store is “free.” Seen in this context, and using digital marketing metrics, we can compare online and omnichannel marketing strategies based on projections for the retail space and averages of current online marketing strategies.
Building an Experience
When moving into a physical location, many e-commerce retailers are looking to make the space into an experience that drives brand awareness over more traditional forms of physical retail.
Aside from the obvious benefits of in-person product comparisons, a brick-and-mortar store offers opportunities for a unique brand experience that can’t be replicated online. Not only can you construct a visually impressive presence through decor, product layout or in-store special events such as pop-ups or exhibitions, there is a dopamine hit that presents in physical retail that can lead to impulse purchases or online searches and hits. And, important in a time where the majority of both personal and business interactions are conducted from screen-to-screen, there is someone behind the counter in a brick-and-mortar who provides real, in-person interaction that counterbalances the lack of human connection in the online space.
To this end, StickerYou: The Store will feature a unique 3-storey high stickerbomb design on the storefront created in collaboration with applied sciences giant 3M, a stickerbombed interior, a custom experience center where customers can touch and feel the stickers and be inspired by the creations in the store, kiosks in which to place personalized orders on the spot as well as a sticker art museum that showcases the history of stickers starting in the markets of ancient Egypt.
StickerYou: The Store will also host sticker art-related events, including a history of sticker art exhibition slated for September in collaboration with the editors of the seminal PEEL magazine, featuring sticker art from noted artists including Shepard Fairey, Matthew Hoffman, Milo, Robots Will Kill and more.
This focus on experiential marketing in a brick and mortar location falls in line with the way that e-commerce retailers view physical locations: as a way to raise brand awareness and drive online purchases. By creating an experience space, these e-commerce retailers are giving customers something to talk about with friends, and a place to snap pictures to share online, maximizing the reach and impressions that a brick and mortar space can offer.
This is a benefit for the customer, but also for the retailer, as it offers a chance to glean information about consumer behavior in both brick-and-mortar retail sales, and through interactions with store staff, who can converse with customers, ask questions and observe behaviors that can provide invaluable feedback on your product.
Omnichannel isn’t just for the major players anymore. Pursuing an omnichannel strategy can offer significant rewards for small to medium-sized e-commerce businesses that are interested in experimenting with and broadening their marketing strategies.