Last week I attended the Intersect Retail conference in NYC which featured intimate discussions on hot button topics affecting digital marketing and e-commerce executives in the apparel and accessories space.

The overwhelming theme this year was dependent on the online vs. in-store shopping experience, and the retail panelists continually placed a renewed value on the physical store. Even pure play e-commerce retailers admitted that their decision to rollout pop-up or physical stores was proving to be extremely profitable and that the bottom line is that consumers like to “touch and feel” products.

For example, Jodie Fox Co-Founder and CCO of Shoes of Prey, explained to the audience how the company was strictly an online custom-shoe provider, until her customers continually asked to try on shoes before buying them. Shoes of Prey now has physical stores in Australia and stores within a store, in select Nordstroms.

Aimee Cheshire President at Hey Gorgeous said the company has opened a showroom in NYC so customers can come into the city for a shopping experience, and can try on clothes before buying them online.

And, Brad Andrews, Chief Merchandising Officer at Bonobos revealed how the company has opened 20 Guide Shops so customers can be fitted before they buy online (no inventory is kept in-store and they leave the store empty handed). Andrews says the Guide Shop model has greatly reduced returns, which are a bad experience for customers and costly to Bonobos (due to free shipping).

Elie Tahari’s President, Jake Pleeter, notes that his physical retail stores and the data from these stores are still viewed as a “very, very important resource” for the company.

And, in her keynote, Kara Council, Kenneth Cole’s CMO and EVP noted that today’s consumers have an anti-logo mentality and are mostly looking for quality, style and value and that “customer experience equals customer control.”

Many of the discussion points from the Intersect Retail conference align with the data points from Engageware’s State of Retail 2015 analyst report. Consumers today want help in their final purchase decision and want to touch and feel products.

Photo credit: @IntersectRetail

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