New Blog – Retail’s Edge

August 8, 2013

I forgot to say that I have a new blog, Retail’s Edge ( Still figuring out where I’m taking it, but I’ll be looking into what makes up a seamless shopping experience. Think physical store innovation, collaborative consumption, logistics/operations, mobile/tablet/in-store blending, and payments.

Taking the Plunge

April 19, 2013

New blog launches May 1.
Think retail innovation, future of retail, emerging trends, forecasting, data, intelligence, analysis, & opinion.

#WPClassTrip Fail in San Francisco

March 29, 2013


Update: Warby Parker confirmed that the class trip to SF has been cancelled…temporarily. Read the official post.

In my quest to understand the new face of retail and showrooming, I’m in the Marina checking out the Warby Parker Class Trip (#WPClassTrip). Unfortunately, the city is shutting them down. Two city officials – at least one a cop – are talking to the on-the-ground Warby exec right next to me. I don’t know all the details, but basically these guys need permission and don’t have it. The city officials are actually being really nice, recommending moving the bus to a private parking lot. Seems like a reasonable outcome.

I think all this started when a local optical store complained.

Warby is scheduled to be here all week until May 12. Or at least they were. On the weekends, the bus moves over to Dolores Park.

The Warby guy made the case that he doesn’t even need/want to sell. He just wants people to be able to try on the frames.

Ah…the not so perfect showrooming experience! Off to See Eyewear for a great in-store only experience.

Reimagining Physical Retail Stores

March 26, 2013

I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about a new ecommerce venture. Still playing around with a number of ideas, but over the last couple months, I’ve actually spent an equal amount of time thinking about a physical retail store venture. Seems almost quaint in the wake of Marc Andreesen predicting the death of traditional retail and showrooming killing off everyone from Best Buy to Bed Bath & Beyond.

This week, I’ve spent time shopping in Union Square, SF where I visited Bonobos’ Guideshop, Nespresso’s Boutique (conveniently across the street from Bonobos), and Uniqlo’s flagship store.

Bonobos’ Guideshop is a showroom. You set up an appointment with a stylist and figure out what works for you. You can’t actually purchase an item and walk out with it, but your guide will help you purchase it online at the end of your appointment. In this way, you’ll know what works, fits, and feels good and be able to order confidently online in the future. Seems like a smart move for an online only retailer. Bonobos also has ‘stores’ inside Nordstrom and is launching a print catalog. In other words, it’s going in the opposite direction of the ‘traditional’ retailer. And I think it comes down to getting the brand name out there, increasing conversion rate, and increasing LTV.

Nespresso’s Boutique isn’t as overtly a showroom as Bonobos’ Guideshop. While I’m pretty sure it was set up with showrooming in mind, it is, at first glance, a nice cafe in Union Square. Nespresso machines and capsules are all around you and are used to make your drinks, tablets with Nespresso ‘demos’ are available, but no one is pushing a sale beyond a Macchiato and pastry pairing. You can linger just as you would at Starbucks or Peets. Granted, the menu itself is an advertisement for Nespresso’s capsules, bringing the consumer along for a ride from a low intensity Linizio to a powerful Ristretto. Walk downstairs, though, and you can get the full Nespresso experience with a knowledgeable coffee consultant and walk out with a machine, capsules, glasses, etc. You’ve probably seen similar Nespresso Boutiques in your favorite department store. These Boutique experiences are in stark contrast to their online site. Ughh. What a disaster!

Uniqlo is a different animal. If you don’t know Uniqlo, you should. Uniqlo is the 4th largest clothing retailer and plans to be #1 by 2020, when it plans to achieve $50B (yes, that’s BILLION) in sales. Uniqlo offers wide selections of fashionable items at low prices. In the San Francisco store, there’s a hint of technology in the shape of a Magic Mirror, which allows you try on a red jacket and see it in the mirror in all the other available colors. Expect more of this type of technology to permeate Uniqlo and other physical retailers.

Ecommerce is continuing to grow at a nice clip. Tablet commerce has demonstrated high conversion rates. The Vente Privee flash sale model has boomed and continues to do well in many cases. The Groupon daily deal model exploded, but is by no means dead. Personalization/subscription (stuff in a box/trunk) commerce is morphing, but a very popular trend. Social commerce is still talked about, but after 4 years of talk, no one has any idea what it means. And Poshmark, TheFancy, Threadflip, and others are getting traction while Nasty Girl grew to $100M+ in sales in no time…I’ll never understand or get in the way of women and clothes!

All this is to say that ecommerce is an exciting area. But those physical locations on the corner or in a larger entity like Nordstrom offer an opportunity to touch, feel, smell, wear, and experience a product up close and personal. Some people are completely comfortable with the Zappos free return policy. And you see Warby Parker taking advantage of this in the form of its Home Try On program, but even Warby is opening up showrooms. Online customized designer shoe store Shoes of Prey has created a unique in-department store showroom experience that bridges the gap between online and bricks and mortar.

So that’s a little of what’s rattling around in my mind these days. I’m not figuring out how to fight showrooming. That’s a stupid plan. I’m thinking about how to embrace it. Thinking about what a better in-store experience means.

is anyone listening?

March 6, 2013

i’m thinking of penning a new ecommerce blog. what do you think? please let me know your thoughts through a comment.

Mercent Panel

June 5, 2012


Internet Retailer

June 5, 2012


See you at Internet Retailer June 5 – 8 in Chicago

May 26, 2012

I’ll be at IRCE in a couple weeks.

These days, I’m a PT Consultant with Kontagent, helping the company work with top Mobile Apps. We’ve realized that most companies don’t have great insight into user analytics (LTV, engagement, retention, in-App actions, which users monetize, etc.) for their Apps as most of the mobile analytics providers are pretty light weight and Omniture/Coremetrics/GA aren’t setup for the App world.

Kontagent is an enterprise level platform. The company has years of experience in the social/mobile gaming analytics industry. We recently started working with many leading non-gaming Apps, and we’re providing insights/intelligence those companies previously had difficulty accessing.

If you have a leading Mobile App and want to know more (or just want to catch up), contact me at brian.smith at

Comprehensive Review of the Current State of eCommerce

January 8, 2012

Why is e-commerce such a hot area in venture capital now? from Elizabeth Knopf of Sorced.


December 22, 2011

While I just started a new book, I found myself spending a lot of time this week on two articles and all the related comments, posts, counter-arguments, etc.:

-Marc Andreessen: Predictions for 2012 (and beyond) – From CNET. Yes, I still check out, although not as much as I once did. The article is a follow up to Andreesen’s WSJ article from August about Why Software Is Eating The World. I had a bit of a problem with a statement I thought he was making that because of smartphones “we saw the rise of a whole category of e-commerce category killers in verticals that 5 or 10 years ago couldn’t support high growth companies because the markets weren’t big enough,” but I’m probably just reading the article wrong. In any case, Software is Eating the World. He makes the great, albeit obvious case for why we’ll see more verticals eaten by software in the coming years. 6 billion smartphones in the next 3-5yrs. Wow.

-CEO of Forrester Research, George Colony put forth the thesis that the Web is Dead during his talk at Le Web (see above video). Fred Wilson picked up on it. And Mark Suster said ‘don’t bet on it.” Great to have George Colony put out something different and hear Suster walk through software development over the past 30 years in his criticism.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 295 other followers

%d bloggers like this: