Clicks to Bricks
November 13th, 2018

The patient is still breathing.  Barely, but breathing and taking nourishment.  An interesting thing is happening in retail.  Online shopping, led of course by Amazon, has been like a slow-moving Pac-Man gobbling up retailers who operated from bricks.  Many of the bricks have crumbled; think Toys ‘R Us.  But, bubbling just below the service some bricks are making a comeback, and one of the most stunning is Amazon itself, with Amazon Books.  Untuckit has been an aggressive online and print advertiser, selling largely online.  But then as an experiment it opened a popup shop in Manhattan and suddenly profit margins started to improve and customers started buying more.  Others like Warby Parker and Bonobos are opening physical locations.

Why? Instant gratification for one.  Amazon started its rise to owning the world selling books online.  But there is something about holding a book in your hands – reading the flyleaf, the back cover (even though you can do that on Amazon), and thumbing through the pages.  There is something for a woman in many cases about trying on a pair of shoes and looking at them on her feet; in a mirror; seeing how it makes her feel; seeing what it feels like to walk around in them.  Holding up a blouse, or a shirt, or putting on a winter jacket; hard to do that online.  Tactile; human touch; sights and smells, and on and on.  You’re in a store and something else catches your eye that you would like better.  You probably wouldn’t have seen it on the website. 

But my guess is that one of the most powerful advantages of the bricks is customer service.  You can ask questions.  Do you have this in another size?  Another color?  You can return something to the store instead of boxing it up, shipping it back and waiting for the charge to be credited back to your credit card. 

There is a certain magic to good customer service.


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