Michelle de Haaff

“Software eats retail.” For any brick-and-mortar company, this absolutist prediction from mega venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Marc Andreessen, is far from new. The footsteps from the likes of e-tailers such as Amazon, Zappos, and Bonobos have long been audible, threatening to put an end to in-person retail as we know it — as Andreessen suggests.

But is he right?

Though the “e” in e-commerce could just as likely stand for “easier” as for “electronic,” this isn’t the only reason e-commerce is winning. In a lot of cases, they’re just doing things better. They’ve removed traditional customer painpoints — things like return policies, shipping costs, and inventory issues — and provided customers with an experience that they actually like more. An experience that’s more enjoyable than driving to their nearest brick-and-mortar and dealing with rude store associates, lack of inventory, and stringent return policies.

Traditional retailers that have been slow to react to these evolving customer expectations have paid the ultimate price. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity for those that are still alive to create experiences for customers that they can’t get anywhere else — and that keep them coming back.

In fact, there are already brick-and-mortar retailers who are doing this:

Exhibit 1: Nordstrom.

Exhibit 2: Tory Burch.

The latter, a much younger company, was founded in only 2004. Right in the heart of the ecommerce boom. For context, that same year, shoe giant Zappos (founded in 1999) hit $184 million in gross sales. Who would want to open a brick-and-mortar that partly specialized in ballet flats? That sounds like a bad idea, right?

Well, apparently not. 10 years later, Tory Burch has expanded from its original location into a global company with over 120 standalone locations and sold in over 3,000 department stores and boutiques. Something clearly is working.

That something is not just providing products that women love, but also creating an in-store experience that they’re willing to keep coming back to, instead of finding shopping alternatives online. Tory Burch’s SVP of Global Retail, Matt Marcotte sums it up well: “We believe in creating transformational experiences. We want our customer to feel incredibly positive every time she leaves our store, whether she buys, browses or returns. Everything we do is focused on understanding how to improve based on her likes, her wants and her desires.”

When you visit a Tory Burch location, these transformational customer experiences can take many forms. From complimentary wine, beer, or coffee while you browse to iPads for shoppers’ companions and children to stay preoccupied (and happy) with. A big part of these experiences is also driven by frontline employees. Tory Burch’s are trained to be customer-centric and highly engaged toward creating the right atmosphere for any and all of their customers. They continually evolve and adapt the transformational experiences they create for customers by constantly listening to and acting on customer feedback.

All of this has culminated to create loyal customers, rising satisfaction scores, and large sales growth.

So, given all this, let’s return to Mr. Andreessen’s comment from earlier. To it I say: Software can try to eat retail all it wants. But it’s never going to get a Corona to wash it down with.

Find out more about how Tory Burch is winning with customers. Download the case study below!

Photo credit: Jeremy Schultz