The advantage to DTC brands opening physical locations is clear, but if you’re a digital-only DTC considering opening your first location, how do you know where to go? What kind of strategy should you use?
Having worked with notable DTC brands like Warby Parker, Tonal, Purple, and Lovesac, we asked ASG President Carrie Barclay to share some insight on what works and where to start.
Q: It seems a bit daunting to transform from digital-only to incorporating physical locations. How do you advise DTCs just getting started?
Carrie: Initially, it’s important to keep an eye on your investment. This means choosing locations beyond New York City, where the costs are more manageable and data is more relevant. A clustered or regional approach to launching physical stores can be smart. Rather than spread across the country, many DTCs may opt to open a location or several near where they are headquartered. They can physically check in on the stores; see what’s happening; gauge client response and make adjustments to their physical store strategy before expanding further.
Q: What do DTCs have to consider in order to expand?
Carrie: It will really depend on the brand’s ability to scale. They have to think about logistics and distribution. A great example of how to do this well is Primark, a European company that opened a distribution center in Pennsylvania in order to support the stores they are opening in the northeast.
Q: You’re a fan of pop-up stores. Why?
The pop-up is the equivalent of a fancy customer intercept survey. You can gather a lot of customer data with very little investment to determine whether or not it’s a good location, what kind of traffic you can expect, and what your product mix should look like. Pop-ups have increasingly become an effective way to test a market and make sure it’s a good fit for your brand before getting too heavily invested in the location.
Q: How do you determine which path to take when opening physical stores?
Carrie: You need to use the data to make strategic decisions about your brand. Data will help you answer the questions you need to think about as you go physical. Do you build out your own retail shops across the country or test pop-ups in certain high-traffic areas? Do you sever ties with the retailers who carry your brands or focus on a hybrid solution that allows your brand to partner with retailers even as you build your own branded stores? The answers to these questions will differ for each brand, but the data is always there. The important element is being able to analyze and overlay market insights and match them with business goals.
Q: Why do you think DTCs need physical stores?
Carrie: We know customer acquisition costs are not sustainable with digital-only, so that’s a big reason behind the push we see among DTCs to open physical locations. But at the end of the day, it’s not about having a physical store or a website or an app or two-day delivery or a great return policy. It’s about being where your customers need you, when they need you, how they need you. It’s about being the brand they trust – because you meet your sustainability promises, you are accessible when they’re ready to shop, and you’re convenient. Physical stores increase trust in your brand, can put you in your customers’ neighborhoods and can give your brand enormous growth opportunity when done right.
Want to learn more about implementing a data-driven DTC location strategy? Explore our proprietary platform, ASGedge, where we combine tailored real estate data with industry expertise to inform confident retail decisions.