What can we learn from Glossier opening its first physical store?

Beginning as digital-only, Glossier has been dipping its toes in retail, trialling pop-ups and showrooms, and has recently unveiled its first permanent store.

Online sales are soaring; according to the Financial Times they rose to 24.1% of the total market in 2017, up from 11.6% in 2012. It’s easy to see why people opt for online shopping; personalised discount codes popping up as the site opens and same-day delivery make e-commerce an inviting and smooth experience.

The retail apocalypse haunts brick-and-mortar stores – with big box retailers such as Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser and Toys R Us being forced into closures. As Glen Tooke, consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel puts it, “Online is growing at the expense of offline.” So why has digital cult beauty brand Glossier just branched out into their first physical space?

Against the Grain

Thanks to its technology-based foundation, tech integrations are at the forefront of the brand which really works in its favour. Online shopping’s popularity is beginning to shape the way brick-and-mortar functions. A 2017 study by Adyen, a leading online payments provider, found that 79% of shoppers leave stores due to long queues, and 50% want location-based discounts via mobile devices – behaviours they have learnt from their online experiences.

Glossier began online and therefore these behaviours are ingrained in its DNA. So, although it might seem counter-productive to branch out into brick-and-mortar, it’s already one step ahead. Its online customer journey sets a high standard for its showrooms, but it’s certainly up to the challenge. Its recent pop-up in London mastered an omnichannel retail experience, with tablet POS systems that ordered your products from the in-house stock room, to a collection point for you to pick up on your way out.

Let’s Get Physical

The holistic approach Glossier has to shopping goes a long way; physical stores can add dimensions to a brand that online simply cannot. As Topshop has shown with DJs in-store and its VR waterslide window display – complete with sounds and smells of summer and parts of a real waterslide – experiential marketing goes a long way. Like Topshop, Glossier followed suit with their own revelation in retail.

Experience is at the forefront of Glossier’s operations and this strongly appeals to the modern-day shopper. Tangible interaction means customers can feel and try-on items, so they have confidence in their purchase. Customer service offerings create long-lasting relationships, and the ability to offer a multisensory experience turns walking into a shop into something to remember. The proof is in the pudding – one of the New York showrooms generates more sales revenue per square foot than the average Apple store, Emily Wiess the Founder and CEO of Glossier revealed earlier this year. The new permanent store is based on the concept of driving through a dessert, with a separate room filled with an installation of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon – complete with sound recorded at the actual landmark and day-to-night lighting. It goes without saying the social media coverage has been plentiful.

The Showroom Must Go On

Having built a huge online following, its brand identity has been primarily formed on Instagram; playing on the influencer trend, it’s uniformed gang of ‘Glossier Girls’ (brand ambassadors) endorse its products all over the online platform. Their account is successful because it feels like your following a friend rather than a brand and its 1.2 million following is credit to that. This heavy reliance online means having an Instagrammable permanent store holds great value for them.

Social sharing is at the heart of the beauty brand – propelled by the physical experience its showrooms (and now permanent store) offer. It’s well-presented brand ambassadors work in the showrooms, the spaces are impeccably designed (and always on-brand pink), filled with flowers and mirrors designed for the perfect selfie. It capitalises on the desires of the Instagram age; driving press coverage, social sharing and encouraging people to visit the store rather than shopping online.

Glossier can teach us that experience means everything to the modern shopper. Offering this kind of in-store experience improves brand reputation both online and offline. It increases footfall because it acts as an attraction, it encourages social sharing and it gives its customers a fun experience to remember.

All images are from the Glossier Instagram.