From Brick and Mortar to Online: How Crowdsourcing Promotes Success

By: Alex Chrum | Published: May 3, 2012

The marriage of Bonobos, an online retailer of men’s clothing geared toward young, successful professionals, and the 111-year old brick-and-mortar Nordstrom’s brings the importance of online branding and effective email marketing to light – and highlights an avenue for crowdsourcing to help traditional businesses transition to the web quickly and cost effectively.

While Nordstrom’s had ventured into online sales, it had done so with little fanfare until some its more recent endeavors, and it still seeks ways to improve. Bonobos, on the other hand, sold exclusively online since its inception with great success. The startup company’s success stemmed from an ability to tap into the wants and needs of its customers.

The future of retail growth is largely online, and traditional, large retailers often struggle with the transition and online branding. These retail giants bring something to the table for internet start-ups as well as more resources and bigger distribution channels.

Bonobos’ innovative and personalized email marketing campaigns helped fuel the company’s growth. Emails with funny YouTube videos that appealed to its customer base were a hallmark of its approach. This start-up also tapped into its online audience with customized elements and apps for mobile devices.

Other big retailers have taken the similar approach of acquiring or building partnerships with successful online companies to improve their online presence. In 2011, Walgreen’s purchased, and Walmart Stores bought Kosmix, a social media company now used to build and test Walmart’s web and mobile apps to streamline and enhance customers’ online experiences.

Innovation, ingenuity, creativity and an ability to tap into the mentality of customers is vital for any business, big or small, to experience success with online selling. Nordstrom’s repeated, yet initially not very fruitful attempts at building an online presence make it evident that the right approaches and tools tip the scales of success. While Nordstrom has taken one of the most aggressive approaches to continue its the growth of a strong online presence, it still has much to learn – knowledge that Bonobos and similar companies prove is essential.

So how does crowdsourcing translate into a successful foray into online retailing?

Crowdsourcing presents a virtually unlimited number of ways to aid any business in building its brand online and in creating and developing an effective, customized email marketing plan. Likewise, the use of crowdsourcing can provide e-commerce product descriptions, search relevance, feedback on products, direction and development in the design phase, customer preferences, wants and desires and so much more.

Using Bonobos’ personalization approach to emails, crowdsourcing can leverage millions of workers quickly to find usable and personalized elements to add to an email marketing campaign on a very large scale. The relevancy of product offerings, organization, categorization and more is easily put to task for real-world results in a short period of time.

The targeting of a specific customer base is also possible with qualification tests that weed out members of the crowd who do not fall within a certain category of consumers. Having user-submitted videos from crowd members who are prequalified can provide future (inexpensive) promotional materials with a realistic touch. In much the same fashion as Walmart’s “Get on the Shelf” crowdsourcing effort, competitions centered on developing something that enhances a business are easily created and administered.

Whatever the task, crowdsourcing offers scalable solutions to aid in online branding, email marketing and any other areas the creativity of the CrowdSource team identifies to facilitate the success of a business’ leap into online selling.


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