After years of criticizing physical stores as relics, even e-commerce zealots are acknowledging there is something to a bricks-and-mortar location. EBay and Etsy are testing temporary stores, while Piperlime, the Gap Inc. unit that was online-only for six years, opened a SoHo store this fall. Bonobos plans to keep opening stores, and Warby Parker, the eyeglass brand, will soon open a physical location. The companies say they are catering to customers who want to see what they are buying in person, and who see shopping as a social event.
Warby Parker, the industry-disrupting seller of stylish, affordable eyewear, noticed fewer customers were using its 1-800 number and more were turning to Twitter to pose questions. But the retailer found it difficult to answer complicated questions, such as those about prescriptions, given Twitter's 140-character limit. Looking for a way to interact with customers outside the constraints of Twitter, the company's social media team started shooting videos of themselves answering questions, uploading the videos to YouTube and replying to customers’ tweets with a link to the video.