brand experience brief: bonobos and warby parker

Today is Day 3 of Brand Experience Week.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the Brand Experience Briefs so far (Monday:  SuperChix a test chicken sandwich restaurant from Yum Brands; Tuesday:  Evolution Fresh a juice-based concept from Starbucks.)

Today’s installment in this Brand Experience Week covers two e-commerce brands that have branched out into brick and mortar stores — Bonobos and Warby Parker.  These customer experiences provide learnings for other e-commerce companies and all retail stores.  Take a look:

DLYohn Brand Experience Brief: Bonobos and Warby Parker from Denise Lee Yohn on Vimeo.

Want to learn more about how to design extraordinary customer experiences?  Check out my library of Brand Experience Briefs here and subscribe to my feed here so you don’t miss tomorrow’s video in this Brand Experience Week which shows how a couple of packaged foods brands have gone about creating retail experiences.


Today’s installment in this Brand Experience week covers two e-commerce brands that have branched out into brick and mortar stores — Bonobos and Warby Parker. These brands provide learnings for other e-commerce companies and all retail stores really.

Both brands use their stores to provide the excellent personal service that people who know them online would appreciate, but they both have a way to go before their stores truly embody their brands and can attract new customers.

Let’s start with Bonobos. Bonobos was founded in 2007 as a website to address men’s aversion to shopping. It started offering “the best fitting pants you’ve ever owned” and expanded to a full range of menswear and accessories.

In 2011, the company started opening “Guide Shops” – brick and mortar locations where customers can get fitted and pick out styles and colors – and then have their purchases shipped to them. Bonobos currently runs 10 Guide Shops and I checked out the one in San Francisco. You really have to be seeking out the store because the location is only identifiable by a banner hanging from the fire escape above a non-descript looking building and you see the Bonobos name only after you enter the building.

Once you take the elevator to the 2nd floor, you’re greeted by a friendly chalkboard sign which is the only signage in the entire store. The space feels more like a merchant’s showroom than a retail store. A beautiful magalog was available but otherwise, there was very little branding.

The vibe is very laid back with rap music playing over the PA and the salespeople wearing flip flops. There’s a console equipped with a computer but it’s unclear if customers are supposed to use it and what for.

The experience is very high touch and not designed to be self-serve so you’re out of luck if you’re there when the couple of salespeople are tied up with other customers. Your best bet is to make an appointment which about half of customers do.

Warby Parker is an eyewear brand that also started exclusively online. Warby Parker’s mission is to “create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point.” It has attracted customers through an easy try and buy experience as well as its cool glasses designs.

It currently runs 3 stores and 6 so-called showrooms which are locations in other boutique retail stores. I visited the store in New York which was operated out of the front of its corporate office because they are working on a new location. I got the sense it was pretty representative of the Warby Parker brand experience nonetheless.
Like Bonobos, you’d really have to be seeking out the store to find it. There is no signage on the exterior and only a laser printed sign greets you as you step off the elevator.

It also isn’t intended as a self-serve experience. Again there are a couple of computers at the front, but it isn’t clear what you’re supposed to do with them. The products aren’t clearly labeled for men or women. And there is no signage to explain what if any options are available. There is a bunch of stock behind the register which suggests you might be able to take glasses home with you, but the purchase process isn’t clear. And the two salespeople who were manning the store when I visited were busy serving other customers, so once again I was out of luck.

There are fun decorative items at the entrance and more inspired displays, but it’s still pretty streamlined like the Bonobos store.

Missing from both stores is a digitally-enhanced experience that many retailers are now offering. There is no obvious way to use the Internet to get more product information, share images or comments on social media, or to check online for prices, pricing options, or inventory.

Also missing is brand personality and cues of brand values and attributes. Both companies have built their online customer franchises through strong brand values – Warby Parker donates a pair of glasses for every pair that’s purchased – Bonobos stands out because of its distinctive tone and manner that appeals to male sensibilities. But neither of the retail spaces convey a strong sense of brand which is key to attracting new customers.

So that’s my report on e-commerce brands going brick-and-mortar. Hope you’re enjoying these Brand Experience Briefs. Look out for tomorrow’s video which compares the retail stores that two food manufacturers have opened – Chobani and Dannon.

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