The evolving dynamic around ecommerce and high street retail is a big part of multichannel retail’s changing picture today. The ease of experience when shopping online is something many have grown accustomed to, putting the pressure back on the retail stores to deliver more for the dedicated custom of committed in-store shoppers.
Step forward Dropit Shopping, the brainchild of the entrepreneur Karin Cabili, which soft-launched in central London last year with an offer that lets shoppers drop off their purchases in-store or at kiosks for them aggregated and delivered to a preferred address in one easy assignment. There’s an app, too, which tracks the delivery and adds to the experience and offer in other ways.
Here’s Cabili’s story.
I was shopping in New York and weighed down by bags. It dawned on me immediately that there would be a real benefit in a service that lets customers have their bags transported back to their home or hotel to continue their day unburdened. Dropit was born that day, if only as the germ of an idea.
If you think about it, for more than 100 years fashion retail in the big cities, in particular, has been an entertainment. In the early nineteenth century, people came into a store and the assistant opened a drawer and offered what he or she thought would suit. There was no display like there is today.
That experience of being helped by a fashion specialist is gone now from the mainstream. It might be there in the high-end fashion but I think we should bring back some of the fun of shopping, and that’s part of the rationale for Dropit too.
Don’t forget that ecommerce has changed things further. In the past 15 years the speed and convenience of online, where stock is turned around very frequently, has left the fashion stores, in particular, looking out of date. People go out shopping less frequently than they buy online and the turnover of stock is slower.
Stores are also suffering because retail is not really a career for the staff but a job. There isn’t the pride or the expertise. It changes the way staff work and train and it changes the experience. There are exceptions, but in general, what I say holds good.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the high street fashion experience. Shopping is still a better experience for the customer in many ways. That’s especially true with fashion, where returns are 3% for shop-bought items and 30% to 40% for online purchases.
Let me say some more on Dropit and how it adds something. The service lets shoppers gather bags from high-street shops into one planned delivery. You can choose a single bag drop, a day pass (for £10) or a three-day pass. The Dropit app allows shoppers to track their delivery or receive status updates via push notifications or email.
The mobile app shows shoppers which shops offer the service. It also shows all the Dropit locations where bags can be left before being delivered the same day or the following evening.
As users profiles develop in the app, spending habits are tracked. This gives retailers a chance to gain knowledge about offline consumers just as they would from online.
By bringing the convenience of online into the physical stores, it builds a network effect too. The network between stores in a Dropit location becomes stronger, like it does in a department store.
Hands-free shopping is the other big boon. Shoppers who have used the service in central London have enjoyed the experience of not carrying their items. It gives shoppers a greater sense of shopping being seamless and easy and enjoyable.
The benefit is there for the shops from the network effect. And the effect works for the courier network, too, with it handling the consolidation and aggregation of deliveries.
Lots of data insights are starting to flow now. It means retailers can understand the customer better. In London, around Regent Street, we have ten months of data. The average transaction values are sharply up, dwell times are up and customers are happier to shop for longer.
It should be easy to duplicate the impact we’ve had in central London in other locations. Many of the retailers in London are found in malls around the world, and if they like Dropit already they should buy into other launches.
It’s important that scaling up is easy. Not just for us as we look to grow Dropit but because it will benefit fashion retailers to have more of a networked mentality and to be less competitive. It’s proven that the one-stop shop works well for driving better engagement by customers.
Can independent retailers benefit too? Absolutely. We are creating a two-sided marketplace and we want to include as many fashion retailers as possible. That’s something we can speed up by engaging with retailing associations in different locations, like the Bond Street Association, acting on behalf of lots of retailers, large and small.
The focus so far has been on big brands because Dropit is free to them. and plug and play. We wanted fast pick-up and that’s what we’ve managed to secure. But the next phases will reach out to a broader base.
We can also involve leisure businesses in delivering the service. For example cinema chains and restaurant chains can be locations for Dropit kiosks, extending the network. Hotels are also important in terms of relationships since they can offer the service bundled into their room offer for customers.
Which businesses are about to join next? We are extending the Regent Street pilot to the wider West End. Participating stores already include Liberty, GAP, Lacoste and River Island.