When the biggest online retailer in the world announced it was planning to open a brick-and-mortar store last year, it came as a surprise to many. Amazon’s offline store plans, however, can hardly be considered an exception. It’s rather part of a bigger trend as other popular e-commerce ventures also started to expand their online empire into the real world, especially online fashion stores. Rent the Runway, net-a-porter and Bonobos, once pure online businesses, have all opened showrooms or pop up stores over the past years. The reason is simple: consumers want to touch and feel the product.
Touch is offline’s edge
Last year, Ripen conducted a study and asked the question: ‘what would make you most likely to purchase an item in-store instead of online?’ They found the number 1 reason to be that consumers want to see and feel the item in person. Research agency e-tailing conducted a related study, in which 67% of consumers indicated they like visiting offline stores because they can “touch and feel a product”. Touching the product is still an essential part of the buying process for a large group of consumers, especially in fashion retail where feel is considered an important part of the product.
Even for retailers that want to focus on driving online revenues the importance of touch should not be ignored. With omnichannel being the latest trend in retail it is crucial to serve your customers across all channels. A customer might have pre-selected a dress online and then go to the store to touch, fit and buy or vice versa. Some e-commerce founders, such as Warby Parker’s, learned this lesson early on: ‘Although we created Warby Parker as a brand to be predominately sold online, we quickly learned that customers wanted physical contact. (…) While we were still full-time students, customers would call us at our apartment in Philadelphia and ask if they could come over to try on frames at our “office”’ (HBR).
The optimal wall
If touch is a prerequisite for sales, you want to make sure that all of your products are placed optimally for most touches; more touches means more sales. Extensive mathematical models have been developed to optimize shelf space, combining the likes of game theory, algorithms and econometrics. These models can be of great value when you want to take your amount of inventory into account, but what these types of models often fail to capture is behavior, especially irrational behavior. Models can offer a great starting point to get insight on how much of each item to place on the shelf, but you don’t only want to control what’s on the shelf, but also where it’s on the shelf. And creating the optimal layout of your wall or shelf is a matter of using data, testing and constant optimization. It’s about analyzing the complex interaction between customer and space. So, what will you do to make your customers want to touch your products? And, more importantly, how will you measure success?
Monolith’s decision matrix
Measuring touch and the Monolith model
Now let’s get back to our title: ‘where would the web be without counting clicks?’ Well, it would be similar to the current state of brick-and-mortar retail. Hardly any retailer is measuring one of the most important buying predictors: touch. That’s why we’ve developed a tool that provides you with a heatmap of what on your wall is touched most. We understand, however, that data without action is meaningless and therefore created a matrix that combines touches and sales data. It can help you decide what to do with the newly gained information. An item that sells well and is touched often? Best practice. An item that sells well, but has a low number of touches? Reposition. Before you know it, not measuring touches on your wall, will sound as strange as not measuring clicks on your website.