As online retail sales continue to rise, retailers are still responding in very different ways. While the big gun department stores are still struggling to keep up, there are some online-only stores having huge success because they’re hitting specific gaps in the market.  A few in particular stand out to me.

1. Frankie Dean and Sneaking Duck

These guys sell prescription glasses without the annoying salesperson convincing you to buy godawful frames. Both stores both offer a free try-at-home service eliminating the guesswork out of buying glasses online. It’s an uncomplicated idea, yet makes such a difference. For someone like me, the try-at-home service makes the online experience even better than in store. It’s so effective that the bigger spectacle retailers are starting to offer the same option.

What’s more, in the last few days Sneaking Duck has released their line of customisable 3D printed glasses. Really clever stuff.

2. Shoes of Prey

Now, this online store might be selling to a niche market but I imagine Shoes of Prey is killing it. You can go online and design your own shoes, have them made and then delivered to your door. It’s so simple it’s ridiculous, and yet this customised shopping experience is still relatively new. Imagine how widespread this idea will be in a few years, especially if 3D printers continue to reduce in price and outsourcing to countries like India, Bangladesh and China continues.
Coincidentally Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck have the same founder, Jodie Fox. It takes a sharp mind to start two online startups like these in just a few years.

3. Pakman Parcel Box

This one is a bit left of field but is a great example of how online retail can provide some opportunities in bricks-and-mortar retail. There are now so many parcels being sent due to online retail that Australia Post is changing the way it runs. There are clearly a lot more people bringing in those little parcel slips to pick up their $1.99 HDMI cables from eBay. In fact, there are so many parcels flying around the world that you can now buy a letterbox built specifically to receive these parcels. If that doesn’t reflect a huge change in shopping habits, I don’t know what does. It’s a really smart way to cash in on this change, and I’ll be interested to see how well they do.

I’m not saying bricks-and-mortar stores are redundant, but perhaps there’s some thinking for big brands to do about their selling points. I’ve long thought that stores like Myer and David Jones would do well to focus on building and promoting great face-to-face customer service, because it’s the one thing online retail still can’t offer. I just find it pretty exciting to see how people are capitalising on the freedom that online shopping offers. It’s a whole new world for those willing to take the risk.

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