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Andy Dunn, founder and chief executive officer of men’s apparel e-tailer Bonobos, firmly believes in the power of building a brand online.
Bonobos, cofounded by Dunn and Brian Spaly in 2007 as an answer to the perfect-fitting pair of men’s pants, broke even their first year in business, taking in $2 million in sales.
Dunn believes the Internet is the most significant innovation in retail since railroads and the invention of cars, with mobile commerce serving as the most radical innovation of the past decade.
For Dunn, vertical e-commerce will become the core channel. He lists other pure-play retailers like Warby Parker and Birchbox as part of a “radical transformation” taking place.
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“An entire ecosystem of digitally driven brands is now emerging,” Dunn said, calling Asos a pioneer in the space.
According to Dunn, vertical retailing began in the Eighties with Millard “Mickey” Drexler while he was still at the Gap.
“The Gap was selling Levi’s jeans, and Mickey said, ‘Why can’t we sell our own jeans?’” Dunn said of applying this line of thinking to online businesses like Bonobos, both a brand and a channel.
He explained that there are two sides to an e-commerce business: great clothes and amazing service. Bonobos employs 25 customer service associates, or “ninjas” as the company calls them, to make the online shopping experience as seamless as possible.
“This experience will delight our guy. Experiential retail will win,” Dunn said, noting that the site sees a repeat purchase rate of 40 percent.
Four years after its inception, Bonobos opened its first brick-and-mortar “guide shop” in 2011, which allows consumers a physical location to try on the brand’s full range of apparel and interact with associates or “guides.”
Dunn told WWD last year that the company cut its marketing and advertising budget to focus on physical retail expansion and really home in on enhancing the customer experience. Today, “guide shops” exist in locations including Boston, Palo Alto, Calif., and Chicago.