What happens when digital-first brands experiment with physical retail stores?

March 20, 2018

Having raised almost $40m in the last few years, Frank and Oak is one of the hottest lifestyle brands in North America right now. Based in Canada, the brand is digital first – with users of the website signing-up for a “style plan”, which then sends them customized offers spanning apparel and accessories. Most recently the brand has launched a subscription service, with curated collections of clothing sent to subscribers every month.

Yet, despite being unashamedly digital-first, the brand has started to embrace physical stores – just not for the reasons that you may think.

We had the pleasure of listening to Frank and Oak co-founder Ethan Song at this year’s Shop Talk conference in Las Vegas.

“You don’t need stores anymore,” Song boldly stated. “It’s now a choice, depending on what you want to achieve. For example, to differentiate through an experience.”

Frank and Oak runs both permanent and pop-up stores, none of which are measured in the traditional way. “At Frank and Oak, we use stores as media. They are not targeted on floor space productivity, but on the brand equity they drive. We don’t open stores to build markets. We open them to build engagement.”

“Our store associates were typically already fans of the brand and today we consciously over-staff our stores so that we can ensure a one-to-one experience for our customers.”

It’s a fantastically refreshing way to look at the role of the physical store, and hugely indicative of the cross-over occurring between digital and physical shopping journeys.

Digital-first brands must be operationally ready if they want to experiment successfully

However, many digital-first brands, while keen to explore this concept, just aren’t operationally ready to begin experimenting. Many of the processes that traditional retailers take for granted just don’t exist; for example visual merchandising, store planning, store associate training, and more.

For digital-first brands, where brand equity is core to IP and value, translating brand value from the digital to the physical world can be challenging. Just look at the traditional retailers,  there’s often a gap in the way they communicate to customers, and the way they are able to communicate and bring the brand vision to life for retail staff.

The challenge of high staff attrition, complex retail networks and geographically distant brand headquarters, make this “final mile” experience difficult for any brand to manage.

Digital-first brands looking to explore physical stores as experiential extensions of the brands, need to consider this challenge. Overnight, the curators of the brand aren’t controlled digital channels, but real people – store associates that need training, engagement, and access to the right information and brand assets.

That’s where Concrete can help.

Deliver a well-executed in-store experience that lives up to the brand promise that’s been so carefully curated online

By enabling Head Office, to centrally manage the distribution of brand, promotional, and operational content and tasks, they can ensure field teams always have access to the right information at the right time. That means consistent performance, an ability to monitor compliance, and a well-executed in-store experience that lives up to the brand promise that’s been so carefully curated online.

About Concrete Platform

Concrete is built for retail brands that want to maximize store performance, and achieve a consistent experience across their retail network. Concrete’s products help Head Office operations to centrally manage the distribution of brand, promotional, and operational assets, and ensure better retail performance with coordinated communications and tasks. This means that stores and field teams always have the right information, at the right time.

Concrete Manage: Simplify the process of tracking and managing creative requests - from briefing through to artwork review and approval.

Concrete Publish: A single source of truth for your brand; enabling control over the distribution of brand and operational assets across your retail network.

Concrete Tasks: Distribute, manage, and track tasks across your retail network to ensure compliance and maximize retail execution.  


Are you a digital-first brand looking to experiment with physical retail spaces? If so, book a demo below and see how Concrete can help.


Talk with one of our experts

Book a demo