How does a company based in e-commerce build an offline strategy? Bonobos’ solution is Guideshops, which Brad Andrews, chief merchandising officer at Bonobos, presented on at Intersect Retail in New York City.

Andrews explained that Bonobos had strategized for a completely online presence, but when they opened an office, people came wanting to try on clothing. “People still have that need to touch and feel the product. They want to experience it, they want to see it,” he said.

This is how the company landed on the idea of opening Guideshops: the company wanted to create stores with the advantages of physical retailing but without the cost of inventory. Bonobos’ Guideshops do not carry inventory to sell, instead they stock representations of each style and color and the different fits and sizes to try on and order for home delivery. Using the washed chino as an example, Andrews explained that the Guideshop stocks 20 different colors of the pant, but since the washed chino is available in 37 sizes and 4 fits, 3,000 SKUs are represented with 20 pieces of inventory.

The money the company saves on inventory is then transferred to service. Bonobos has rebranded its sales associates as “guides” who separate Bonobos Guideshops from your standard retail experience by providing product knowledge and advice, as well as offering guests complementary drinks. The process is aimed at catering to male shoppers, who tend to view clothes shopping as a chore and shop seasonally or for special events.

Andrews explained that Guideshops help the brand cultivate their best customers. He said, “If you think about an in-store experience, you’re getting customers at their most engaged.” He added, “A really kind of big aha moment for us was when we realized a small percentage of our customers drive a disproportionate amount of our revenue, so really it’s about quality of customers as opposed to quantity of customers.”

Another surprise was the success of the Bonobos catalog in creating high-quality customers. The business doesn’t receive a large volume of catalog orders, but the catalog is successful in driving people to the web and stores. Half of the store’s customers visit as a result of receiving the catalogs.

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