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Bonobos Knows What Boys Want

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In the nine years since Bonobos burst onto the online scene with its brand of better-fitting menswear, the New York-based company has become the benchmark for e-commerce companies that want to open brick-and-mortar stores.

In addition to its online operation, Bonobos now has 20 Guideshops (offline showrooms where customers can try stuff on for size, then order it from the brand’s website) across the U.S., including four in New York alone, and it also sells products at select Nordstrom stores.

At the most recent round of Editions, a speaker series hosted by the U.S. arm of technology firm Edited, Merchandising Manager Saami Siddiqui discussed how Bonobos straddles the line between traditional retail and the agility of e-commerce.

“We tend to focus a lot on customer feedback, so we’re constantly looking at comments that our customers are leaving us,” he said, noting that a weekly digest is compiled and sent to the merchandising team every Monday. “I think the biggest difference is that we have access to real-time data that some of the traditional retailers might not have which allows us to sort of adjust our promotional cadence. If we run a promotion that doesn’t work too well initially we have the ability to increase the promotion or strip it out completely because it’s not going to work. We’re able to be more nimble in the business.”

But that’s not to say the brick-and-mortar locations are without their merits. According to the metrics, “the in-store customers tend to spend more money or their value is a lot higher,” Siddiqui shared, adding, “They’re also returning a lot more frequently as well and the return rates are a lot lower because once they’ve seen the product, they’ve tried it on, they have a level of comfort with the product and they’re not as inclined to return the product.”

Online wins, however, when it comes to testing out new styles to see how the Bonobos shopper will react to them.

“Being an online brand we’re able to do that because you don’t have to take the inventory liability that you might have to take if you have 200 stores and you were buying product for that many stores,” Siddiqui said. “So we’re able to test in a much smaller way on our website and then react to the results that we see.”