M.Gemi's Showroom Retail Strategy

There’s a lot of talk and speculation at the moment that the omnichannel movement is going through a fundamental change. Namely, that bricks-and-mortar stores in a lot of cases are practically being forced to become showrooms – not so much locations to sell products, rather to showcase wares and allow customers to try before they buy… online.

The modern customer – and particularly the digitally-savvy millennial customer – is increasingly turning to his/her mobile device for shopping assistance while in a store. Indeed, 84% of millennials are using their smartphones for this purpose, with 63% of them claiming to shop on their phones every single day. Great for ecommerce, but the problem for retailers, however, is that many of these shoppers are treating their stores as showrooms – the customer has a look at and feel of products on the shelves, and then pulls out their phone and finds a better deal elsewhere online.

It’s a phenomenon that has of course led many traditional retailers to improve their own in-store mobile experience for customers, in large part giving birth to what has become known as the omnichannel movement. But for ecommerce brands, the only way that they can offer a similar “try before you buy” in-store experience is to branch out into the offline world of commerce and give themselves a physical presence on the high street.

Embracing the Showroom Sensation

For M.Gemi – a direct-to-customer luxury footwear ecommerce brand, launched in 2015 – this move has been made. But, rather than opening an actual store in the traditional sense, the brand has embraced the showrooming sensation and created a space that’s dedicated solely to showcasing its online wares.

The flagship store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood has been designed to give M.Gemi customers a whole new experience on their path to purchase. Not least in the sense that even when the customer tries a few pairs of the gorgeously handcrafted Italian shoes on and decides on a purchase, they still leave without any new footwear in their hands (or on their feet).

(Image source: geomarketing.com)

This is showrooming in its most deliberate and optimized sense. The M.Gemi showroom is completely cashless. Customers can either drop in or pre-book an appointment with a personal stylist, and then, after trying on a few pairs and styles, the purchase is completed by a representative on an iPad, and the shoes are delivered to the customer’s home address two days later.

“M.Gemi stands for Italian shoes — made the old way, sold the new way,” says Lesley Mottla, SVP Product & Experience at M.Gemi. “The old way being by hand, in family-owned workshops, with time-intensive and time-honored construction techniques, in limited editions. And for us, selling the new way means reaching our customers online, via app, through innovative pop-up stores, with constant newness, and an exceptional, seamless experience from start to finish — with warm, welcoming, hospitality-like service.

Driving Online Sales

Shoes, of course, are one of those items that simply need to be tested out and tried on before purchase, and this in itself helps the M.Gemi model. But the store has been designed to be more of an experience than simply a place to get footwear fitted. Comfortable chairs, free sweets, a bar, potpourri strategically placed around the location – it’s an experience indeed.

In fact, Fatima Cardoso-Monahan, the M.Gemi store director, says that many customers hang around the store after their appointment, charge up their phones, enjoy a glass of champagne and soak up the atmosphere. “A lot of clients after they’ve shopped like to linger around” she says. “It’s New York, we like to people watch.”

But the main purpose of the showroom, of course, is to drive online sales. If in-store customers don’t already have an online profile, the store representative will use the iPad to create one. This way, even if the customer doesn’t decide to make a purchase straight away, they can have items added to their cart so they can complete the checkout process later on at home. All of the customer’s details – including foot measurements – are stored on their profiles, making any future online orders a breeze. And, since shoppers are “educated” about the fine handcrafted Italian shoes, M.Gemi says that they are more likely to purchase.

“I think this concierge customer service is central to why our model works so well,” said Mottla. “In fact, after trying on in the store, we find that customers are returning to buy from us online more quickly (1.5 weeks faster than our online-only customers) and spending 26 percent more than online-only customers on those purchases because they have been able to see the shoes’ quality in person.”

Made the Old Way, Sold the New Way

M.Gemi also uses mobile push to communicate new releases, as well as Facebook, SMS, and direct messaging channels to drive engagement with new customers. This, says Mottla, helps people learn more about the brand and the M.Gemi products, as well as helping people find the best style to fit their needs.

With artisanal Italian shoes “made the old way, sold the new way”, M.Gemi seems to have hit on the perfect model to embrace the new omnichannel imperative that both online and offline retailers are facing. The New York flagship showroom is driving results, and the brand has plans to take what it’s learnt from the venture to expand into more locations in 2017. The last word goes to Lesley Mottla.

“It’s just as important for customers to engage with M.Gemi brand face-to-face as it is for them to engage online. Our SoHo pop-up acts as another touchpoint, giving customers the opportunity to try-on the latest handcrafted styles and be personally fitted by our knowledgeable in-store team.”

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