If you've ever shopped in a department store, you're familiar with "store inception," or stores-within-a-store. Just browsing the aisles of a Macy's, you're likely to see dedicated sections for Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and more. Despite the fact that these sections exist within the walls of a retail giant, the personalized look and feel of each brand still remains. Sometimes consumers gravitate toward these "incepted" department store shops simply because they're comfortable or familiar with the brand experience they're going to get. Now the online world is taking notice, responding to store inception with a phenomenon of its own: custom "takeovers" of marketplaces such as Amazon,
Brands know they're dead in the water if they don't have a presence in online marketplaces; that's old news. As commerce has become distributed, consumers have the power to shop wherever they can find the lowest prices or most convenient delivery. But brands don't have to accept the reality of falling into a black box when listing their products on a retailer's website. Welcome to the inception of Amazon.
There are a few interesting, recent examples of inception from this past holiday season. Best Buy created a custom marketplace for Samsung on BestBuy.com, which features only Samsung products and branding. Essentially, Samsung recreated the narrative approach it has on its own main website, delivering content (including videos and product shots of bestsellers like the Samsung Galaxy Note) alongside an integrated purchasing experience on BestBuy.com. Knowing that many of its customers likely visit BestBuy.com for multiple items during the holiday season, creating this store-within-a-store was a smart move to capture mindshare while retaining the Samsung story.
Other brands like high-end fashion retailer AllSaints are experimenting with similar branded experiences and next-day delivery Prime deals through Amazon. The brand found that customers who browsed through Amazon were more likely to make a purchase than those who came directly to the AllSaints website, and decided to leverage that natural shopping pattern of its customers rather than fight it. What's particularly interesting about the Amazon custom commerce experience is that it redirects consumers back to the AllSaints website for actual purchase, using the free, fast delivery perks of Amazon Prime as a driver for conversion. The pay-per-conversion economics of this deal are similar to that of an ad buy.
Beyond the giants like Amazon and BestBuy, emerging social shopping sites like Wanelo are attracting the sometimes elusive, fickle millennial buyers. While Wanelo had its origins as a Pinterest-like mobile discovery platform, brands like Urban Outfitters are now offering a direct route to purchase through Wanelo's new "buy" buttons. An early pilot of the buy button resulted in in-app conversions that were three times higher than the standard Wanelo mobile conversion. Wanelo also offers "save" buttons that retailers can apply directly to their websites, which Wanelo claims can increase revenue by 100% to 300%. Although the verdict on social buying buttons is still out, using platforms like Wanelo where consumers are already browsing with a purchase consideration is a smart way to get in front of an engaged audience.
This all begs the question: In this evolving world of distributed commerce, how is a brand to navigate all of its options? The answer is to remain flexible and open-minded, since these quasi-advertorial approaches are still relatively new and experimental. Even so, brands should keep a few things in mind.
1. Be prepared to have limited control. Although the ultimate goal of a store-within-a-store is to display a native experience on an external commerce site, the brand ultimately may have little ability to make on-the-fly changes. Most of the development resources and design input likely occur on the front-end of an agreement -- it's best to anticipate campaign changes in advance.
2. Define success metrics. Three to six months into a custom experience, brands should evaluate and measure what's happened so far, and work with the retailer to improve and adjust the experience where necessary.
3. Find the right commerce site with the right audience demographic for the brand. Pick one and measure, measure, measure before experimenting broadly to further benchmark a custom campaign's value.
Though there are still many questions to consider, digital inception shops -- like the Samsung shop on BestBuy.com -- are a step in the right direction for brands to manage the challenge of needing to distribute their story across the web. It's all about telling an engaging, consistent story for consumers across platforms. As brands begin to increasingly use stores-within-a-store and "buy now" buttons on discovery platforms like Wanelo, the days of being anonymized by Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces may soon be over.