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IRL: The Evolution of the Online Store

Jess Benjamin discusses the future of the online retail world, as brands begin to move from screen to street.

© Missguided

It’s usually the other way round; you’re out shopping on the high street, get fed up after your fourth time queuing for the changing room and head home to look for your new pair of jeans whilst lying on the sofa in your dressing gown, Netflix on in the background.

But it seems a new age is dawning for the world of online retail. A digital presence alone is no longer enough for many brands, as they hit a peak in the online world and can expand no more. Looking at Reformation for instance, founder Yael Aflalo focused heavily on e-commerce for years after the brand's 2010 launch. After looking at revenue generated by online paid marketing, she realised that the digital sphere of sales can only yield so much growth and so is planning to expand number of physical Reformation stores to 12 in 2018.

According to McKinsey & Company, in 2020 80% of US retail sales will still happen in brick-and-mortar stores, encouraging online stores to follow a trend catchily titled ‘click to brick’. Yet rather than the days of online retail being over, it seems that stores are instead creating a fusion between reality and digital, making the act of physical shopping intertwine with the online.

Take Missguided’s opening in Westfield Stratford as an example. The explosion of millennial pink that is their flagship store has brought the brand into the physical world, creating a brand experience for their customers that only existed on a screen before. The Missguided store is emblazoned with slogans encouraging shoppers to download their app, to follow them on Snapchat, to use their (sometimes controversial) hashtags and to Instagram every angle of their mermaid-chic store design.

Amazon’s new opening of it’s ‘Amazon Go’ store in Seattle just last week goes one step further by removing cashiers and having customers simply take their goods, tracking their purchases with cameras and sensors.

The online and physical retail worlds are evolving to form a combined shopping experience - a promising development for the future of the high street. I’ll just sit over here until ASOS decides to open up shop.

Words by Jess Benjamin

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