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Andy DunnCEO and FounderBonobos
Bonobos, the men’s retailer born online and best known for its colorful tailored pants, has expanded beyond its ecommerce site and opened brick-and-mortar Guideshops at several locations nationwide. Guideshops are brick-and-mortar showrooms that display, but do not sell, merchandise out of their storefronts. Customers can try on in-store but still have to purchase online. Andy Dunn, CEO and founder of Bonobos, spoke with eMarketer’s Elyssa Goldberg about what Bonobos learned taking an online-first ecommerce business offline, from widening the customer base to the importance of personable sales staff.
eMarketer: Who is the Bonobos man? Does the demographic differ online and offline?
Andy Dunn: The Bonobos man is warm, adventurous and clever. His three favorite movies are “The Godfather,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Caddyshack.”
When we started the brand, because we were focused on an internet-driven way of building it, our customers were younger. But we expanded into offline Guideshops, and we just sent almost a million catalogs for the first time. What we found is that, as we add the offline experiences like the Guideshops and like our partnership with Nordstrom, a lot of older men who would have been more reluctant to dabble with a digital brand are now getting exposed to it.
So we are seeing the age range expand dramatically. The median age of the customer has gone up from 28 when we started to 36. But it’s not because we’ve lost the millennial consumer. It’s because we’ve added at the top end of the age range.
eMarketer: Do most people start online and then go in-store, or do people walk by the store, peek in and then shop online?
Dunn: The world is an incredibly varied place in terms of human behavior. We have a consumer for years—an online consumer who loves it and is just happy to continue.
We have another consumer who’s online and who is now checking out the stores and discovering that we make great sweaters, that we make great tailored outerwear or that we have awesome blazers and suits. We also have a customer who is discovering us for the first time through the Guideshops. We have a customer who’s coming in through the catalog. We have a customer who’s discovering us at Nordstrom.
I was recently down at our Bethesda, [Maryland], store opening, and a guy came up to me with his son. And I thought, “Oh, cool, the son is a customer, and he brought dad.” I’m going for the son, to say hello, and dad says, “Hi, I love Bonobos.” I asked, “Wait, who was the first customer here?” He goes, “I was, and then I introduced it to my son.” I said, “How did you meet us?” And he goes, “Well, I was down at Nordstrom, and I needed a pair of pants.” And when we partnered with Nordstrom, our thesis was we would discover a customer that wouldn’t discover us otherwise.
So customers are coming in from all these different touchpoints that ideally enhance each other. Because at some point you need to go in and try stuff on, but ideally you don’t want to do it more than once in a great while. That’s the balance between online and offline that we’re trying to strike.
eMarketer: Do you find that if people come to Bonobos from either a catalog or in-store that their buying habits are different?
Dunn: They buy almost 75% more if they come in through the Guideshop. The reason is they’re getting a human experience. The world has become lonelier through technology and through urbanization. Having a great human one-to-one experience is unique these days. For me, it builds enormous loyalty if I like the people that I’ve transacted with.
The other part of it is that the brand is built around fit. If you’re trying on a suit or you’re trying on a woven shirt, these are sometimes complicated products to fit. A shopper is just going to be more likely to experiment and try on different categories in-store.
Following the in-store experience, the catalog, interestingly enough, is the next best. And I think it’s because of the editorial and seeing the product in context. In a lot of ways the internet hasn’t caught up.
eMarketer: Bonobos has customer service professionals called ninjas available via phone or live chat for its website, and the quality of customer service has been a selling point for the brand. Are there any measures in place to ensure that the customer gets better-than-average service in-store as well?
Dunn: We believe that you get what you measure. So we are measuring the Net Promoter Score of individual stores and individual guides every week. I get a readout of how are we doing. How is Austin, [Texas], doing? How does Bethesda look today? What’s the Net Promoter Score? What’s the Net Promoter Score with the ninjas? What is it of the jeans? What is it of woven blazers? That rich data petri dish is a unique opportunity for digitally driven retailers. The fun part is the stores are stores, but we have a much deeper level of data than would be normal for a traditional retailer.
eMarketer: How does the Guideshop model—where customers try on clothing in-store then buy online instead of leaving with a shopping bag—affect the quality of customer service?
Dunn: We’ve created a model where, when you rip so much inventory out, people aren’t playing defense against inventory all day. They can actually focus on the human beings coming in. I’ve worked in stores with inventory. You’re busy, you’re running around, you’re folding piles. You’re an inventory manager, you’re not a people pleaser. And so we are flipping that on its head.
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