Part II Interview with Yours Truly on Brick & Mortar, Design & More

In the second installment of CorraTech‘s interview with myself, we speak about when ecommerce/pure-play retailers meet brick and mortar retailers and the importance of good design, among other things. Check out the blog for both parts, or click here for part one on our blog.

Without further adieu, let’s get to the very awesome questions they asked me and my hopefully-almost-as-awesome answers.

Almost every brick-and-mortar store has some type of eCommerce offering, but what had been less common up until now were pure-play merchants migrating towards brick and mortar environments. That’s starting to change. You see it in the $16 million deal that Bonobos made with Nordstrom earlier this year and to a lesser extent with the new locker experiment that Amazon is trying out in certain cities. Do you think these types of happenings are indicative of a trend or are they isolated incidents?

First of all, I think people will always want to shop in brick and mortar locations. Whether it’s because they want personal attention from an attendant or because they find it to be a recreational activity. Looking at Bonobos’ case I’m not that surprised it happened. Nordstrom is a successful brand that wants to expand their online presence and Bonobos has become an online brand that people love. It seemed like it was just a good fit. But getting back to the larger question, I don’t think these are just isolated incidents. I think if companies come around that fill a need and are meeting customer demands that no one else is, I don’t see why retailers wouldn’t bring them into stores. Especially because a lot of these stores are trying to appeal to younger generations who may have a connection with online brands.

On the other hand you have Amazon getting into the physical space. For someone like me, I think their locker program would really work. I live in the city. I’m working/commuting 10 to 12 hours a day so I don’t want to go into a store if I don’t have to, but I’m not fortunate enough to have a doorman. I would try it and I bet there are a lot of other people that would try it. If I’m going to the CVS or 7-Eleven anyway, why wouldn’t I pick up the products I ordered offline there? My gut tells me that these aren’t isolated. It’s a trend that will happen when the brand is right, the location is right and the opportunity is right.

We’ve talked a lot about some of the bigger trends in the industry, but one thing we always tell our clients is that you have to have the basics first. You have to make sure that your website is operating properly and that it can handle the traffic it’s getting. We’ve seen some of the biggest brands in the world have their websites crash. Do you think that some companies overlook the basics in favor of the latest and greatest features?

I think absolutely companies are still having issues and ignoring basics and I can’t think of a bigger mistake that retailers could make. I think a lot of retailers still have design and technology issues. I think that it is definitely happening. It’s one of the big topics of one of our upcoming eTail events. I think for the most part retailers have figured out functionality, but for some the design is still not there. I don’t know if everyone cares about this, but I know I do and I think most users do at least on a subconscious level. And there’s still a ways to go to make sites look great and really pull people in. People are looking at their computers 12 hours a day so sites need to look good for me to want to buy something.

I think with how competitive online shopping is and how dominant Amazon is, if you don’t have a site that looks good, you’re in trouble.

From a design perspective it’s interesting to think about. What you’re saying is that nowadays even at a basic level, that design already starts come into play? 

Yes. I think if you look at some flash sale sites for instance, they are all very similar. At the beginning, it was about what brands they were offering. But now they’re all offering the same brands. So now as a shopper, I start to think about which one I enjoy being on and looking at. There are definitely sites that I would prefer and I think that has to do with how the site operates, how it looks and whether it loads quickly. It’s just like a brick and mortar store. If it looks good it’s going to entice you to go in and look around. If it’s loaded with stuff that’s disorganized, the lighting is bad, etc., you’re going to want to leave. If you have a niche product it’s not going to matter, but when you get into models where they’re very similar and competitive you have to go that extra mile.

Anything else that you see as a hot trend right now?

The idea of product photography and video I think is going to be more important. A lot of retailers are using video so you can see a product in use or if it’s clothing, you can see it on a person. Obviously Apple has video for every product, so that’s an example to follow. I think video could be the next big thing. I’m seeing a lot more video online. And photography is always big. If you can see a really clear and good picture of a product you may be more likely to purchase that product than if you can barely make out what it looks like and can’t possibly imagine what it will look like in person.