When Bonobos founder and CEO Andy Dunn first started his company in 2007, few people believed that clothes could be sold solely online without physical stores.
Seven years later, the men's apparel brand has raised more than 70 million in funding and opened up two new lines under its umbrella: Ayr and Maide Golf.
At the Northside Festival, an annual event that celebrates "emerging music, film, food, and innovations" in Brooklyn, New York, Dunn dished on three trends he thinks will drive e-commerce businesses in the years to come:
1. "The future is not only digital, but digitally-built brands."
When Dunn talked about Bonobos in 2008, people would flash "pity looks" at him when he mentioned that it was a brand that sold men's pants and it was totally online. After all, how could it be a success if people could not try their pants on? And could you be a designer and a store at the same time?
Bonobos figured out a way that made it work. Innately built online, it offers two-way free shipping and builds up a team of "ninjas" that help customers to get the right sizes. It also puts emphasis on technology to aid the online customer experience. (An example is its easy checkout interface that's aptly named "3-step checkout.")
Dunn adds that having a website is just part the modern company's digital makeup. Brands necessarily must be digitally-built. Unlike third-party e-commerce companies that only provide the platforms to sell things, Bonobos believes the future of e-commerce should be an integration of a store and a brand at the same time.
It may sound obvious now, as many brands doing this now, but seven years ago, not many would have thought it was necessary.
2. "The future of building online brands is offline."
Though Bonobos was built as an online brand, it does have offline stores. What's special about it is that people walk out of the stores without buying anything--they still have to purchase the clothes online and have them delivered.
The ten physical shops, located in nine cities of the country, are named "guideshops" where people would receive one-on-one service on trying on Bonobos' clothes. The idea is to create "Apple's experience in the clothing industry."
The genius of this strategy is you can avoid having to stock inventory inside stores, and still give people the style of customer service that offline stores are known for. So far, so good for Bonobos. Dunn says 80 percent of the people who come into the stores actually go back and purchases the clothes online.
The lesson that Bonobos learned: People still care about trying on clothes--and they don't mind getting the clothes a day or two later. In fact, some people prefer to walk out without any bags so they can go on to other things.
3. "All online-driven brands will team up."
The last trend that Dunn sees is one of collaboration. In his view, all the online-driven brands will work together.
For e-commerce companies, the most important things are user acquisition and traffic driven to the sites. A way to achieve that, says Dunn, is through cross-selling. Brands can have different identities, but they can also have the same check-out process.
Dunn expects his two own brands, Bonobos and Ayr, a women's apparel company that launched this year, will operate on the same platform.
"My dream is that we all team up and we take on Amazon," says Dunn.