The Digital Storefront Revolution

April 14th, 2014 by Azur Digital

Brands look for ways to merge offline and online worlds into a unified and innovative shopping experience

The store is increasingly tapping into e-commerce and online marketing techniques to serve digital-savvy consumers. The digital storefront is another evidence of the line-blurring. In addition to attracting traffic into the store, it can also allow consumers to browse and buy with the convenience they are used to online. This further empowers the customer, who can choose whether to enter the shop or not.

At present, only the most digitally advanced and integrated brands can deliver such level of shopping experience. For now, most retailers only turn to the digital storefront for differentiation and traffic acquisition purposes. Yet, as they shape-up and integrate their multichannel capabilities, the potential behind this new shopping interface is massive.

More than just a great traffic acquisition tool

As we previously saw with Hollister’s new Dubai store, one of the most immediate benefits of a digital storefront is its ability to attract passers-by. Considering the relative rarity of such initiatives, any brand currently considering deploying a digital storefront is likely to achieve strong differentiation. However, the return on investment can only be maximized provided the experience meets consumers’ digital expectations and translates into a traceable increase in sales, ideally directly.

Innovative retailers with a mature e-commerce channel in place will be able to capitalize on the opportunity much quicker. Kenzo for instance, opened a unmanned pop-up store in Paris last month, featuring a giant aquarium screen connected to its online store. This marketing operation was in support of a campaign against overfishing, and allowed pedestrians to browse and buy special collector items via touchscreens.

Kenzo Digital Pop-up store in Le Marais from March 21 to 27 allowed Parisiens to buy garments and accessories in a very original and engaged digital experience.

It is unlikely such pop-up store generates sufficient incremental sales to cover for the usually pretty high investment required for a truly immersive and engaging digital experience. It is therefore key to capitalize on the brand awareness and social media exposure potential of such initiative, which Kenzo did by enabling visitors to add a fish into the aquarium and name it after themselves via Instagram.

A wide range of possible use

The digital storefront brings the shopping convenience and advantages of e-commerce into the store. Above and beyond, it can enable 24/7 shopping. Next to generating additional sales, this is a powerful platform to gather real-time marketing information by observing consumers reaction to products and offers. Furthermore, it offers new Customer Relationship Marketing capabilities, from in-street/mall targeted marketing and A/B testing through to establishing personalized relationships with passers-by.

As the storefront content can be dynamically changed in real-time, brands could push different offerings and promotions at different time of the day/week to adjust to the type of traffic. New collections and sales campaign awareness could also be significantly raised, with different effectiveness depending on the multichannel maturity level. An omnichannel brand could for instance notify its loyalty program members as they pass by and adjust the storefront content based on their preferences. Conversely, a monochannel retailer would most likely focus on displaying the most selling offers and promotions.

A digital storefront is finally an interesting way for brands to expand geographically at low cost and risk. Kate Spade’s offspring brand, Kate Spade Saturday, which did not have points of sale in the US yet, set up four temporary display shops across Manhattan Island in collaboration with eBay, and equipped them with a digital storefront. The unmanned stores enabled consumers to browse and place orders 24/7, whilst having their purchases delivered home in an hour. This initiative benefited from generous media and social coverage and the brand has ever since opened 3 physical stores (with a 4th due to open this month).


Sneak peek: No fish no nothing digital pop up store –
Kate Spade Saturday Pop up NYC –
PSFK – Adaptive Storefront prototype