With $150,000 in debt, and $3,000 in his bank account Andy Dunn took the risk to pursue Bonobos. Andy was a classic American dream, attending Northwestern University and graduating to work directly in Bain & Company as a consultant in Chicago. Andy discovers a love of travel after a six-month project in San Salvadore. During this time Andy took a job at the national airline of El Salvador and travels to other countries on the weekends. This love of travel inspires him to visit over 30 countries in two years from 2003–2005. It was at this point when both Andy and Spaly met at a GSB class attending Stamford. Spaly decides to conduct some first-hand knowledge of his peers to discover how their pants fit. It was after this experiment Spaly created and sold $10,000 in pants out of Trader Joes bags. From this point Spaly asked Dunn to be the CEO and they set out to sell as many pants as they could. Through pants parties, trunk shows, and selling pants at their friends weddings the duo were able to sell 475 pairs of pants, validating their business idea. As the friends of Andy and Brian saw what was happening, they asked to invest. Bonobos first investment came from over 40 people and raised $750,000. This was in the summer of 2007, and later that same year they packed 400 pairs of pants and moved the company to NYC.
That October Bonobos.com launches and following an article in UrbanDaddy, their site went down from the demand. It brought in the most sales they had seen, $2,000. Though the site had only been launched two months, Bonobos does over $100,000 in sales their first year. With a growing following and NYC as a hub, Bonobos has over 5,000 customers and sales of 12,000 pairs of pants. At this point, this is the companies only offering, soon to be expanded with the offering of shorts, tops, accessories, and golf. The company went on to raise $124 million dollars through 4 different rounds of financing.
It was during the Summer of 2009 Brian Spaly left the company, only to go out and found TrunkClub. As the sole CEO, Dunn ran the company with technology at the forefront, hiring an ex-Netflix engineer to craft a recommendation engine for customers of Bonobos. This technology became the central piece to Bonobos and they went on to deliver a technology led, personal in-store experience through their Guidestores. With a new persepctive on the customer, Bonobos continued to expand, creating a partnership with Nordstrom to distribute in all 118 stores during April of 2012. With this rise in retail Bonobos increase sales both online and offline for multiple stores they operated and through the use of store-within-a-store concepts around the country. In June of 2015, the star of retail had sold 1,000,000 pairs of chinos. The company has only continued it’s unique march down retail road, but how did it all happen and how can you benefit from their lessons?
Other than the few pairs of chinos Andy and Brian slung out of their trunk and pants parties, the retail brand was launched entirely online. At the time this was one of if not the first brand to exclusively launch online. With the early success of their online site, however, it proved the model could work. I wanted to understand why, but these are the three things I have come to discover about why Bonobos worked so well online:
Bonobos have gone out of their way to make the buying process as easy as possible. A major factor in this ability to convert customers has been the algorithms behind the product being suggested and recommended to customers. Their success in connecting past purchase history and search within the site has led to an intelligent way of arranging product choices to match with your preferences. This being said, the combination of true online and offline uses of technology was what I found most interesting. They have a unique ability to cross over the technology and in-store experience, especially through the online appointment maker. As you can see in the image below, they have put in the right steps necessary to make it an experience for the consumer as opposed to a hassle. This approach also shows to consumers that you respect their time, which, as stated in the chart above, is one of the biggest factors in males shopping utility.
That’s it. You know, after going through it, it does feel like your booking something exclusive. This has been a fantastic way of bringing someone into the Bonobos retail experience where you have a dedicated customer coming in, to discover their best options with you. The use of technology experiences which lead to something emotional and fun is the future of commerce and merging the two. Experiences run the new generation. It’s an easy way to cut through the clutter if you can provide a positive buying method with the right technology to make it feel seamless.
Furthermore, Bonobos uses the information from appointments, to fuel their CRM capabilities. The technology which goes behind this are the algorithms from Mike Hart, the man behind algorithms used in Netflix’s sorting of movies. With this algorithm and use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the team was able to match up clever patterns between users purchasing decisions and what they might be most interested in next. All along the way, this algorithm, very similar to the algorithms being utilized in Epic Commerce, continues to improve the customer profile, sorting the clothing to present a personalized option for this consumer. The magic of doing this has been further enabled by the experience a customer receives through an omnichannel offering unlike any other.
On a side note, it was interesting to me that Bonobos did not include a search functionality within their website, which could help toward improving the AI results.
When buying from Bonobos, someone who has never bought before is transformed into a customer through a slick and simple checkout onboarding process. After confirming an order, Bonobos will send a series of emails notifying you of nearby Guideshops who will help you select the next most appropriate fit in clothing and style. Even as I write, you can barely tell where the online talk and offline talk leave off, since it is just as smooth in the Bonobos site.
For a shopper new to Bonobos, it is a very elegant yet simple feel to it. This is now 10 years since the start of their online site, and their product variety has increased, but it is still very simple. Clicking around on the site will bring you to various head categories such as bottoms, tops, outerwear etc, but on the inside, it is nicely displayed with a large high-quality image of the product, listings down below, and the subcategories in between. This is convenient for shoppers. I will point out however, they left the navigation on the left side of the page, but product filters and subcategories could have been left in a “Float” position to follow the user. This could have also been aided by a “smart search”. Nonetheless, as you’ll see below the checkout process was very smooth:
On “Adding to Cart” the side menu appears with cart items. Simple and nice looking, this is a good design for a cart.