The value of going physical in a digital world

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In the evolution of retail, we generally think of online commerce coming after physical stores. But this week’s podcast guest went the other way. Andrew Witkin, President of StickerYou, found the inspiration for his custom sticker company in the mid-00s California surf and skate culture. After operating exclusively online for over a decade, StickerYou recently opened its first brick and mortar store. 

Our intrepid CMO, Ruth Zive, sat down with Andrew to talk about how this impacted the brand. (Did we mention Ruth and Andrew went to preschool together? That’s right — they’ve known each other since Ruth was getting gold star stickers for good behavior while Andrew was always in the principal's office. But look who’s got all the stickers now.) 

Add physical to digital

When StickerYou first started, their goal was to make it as easy as possible for people to create their own stickers — and the best way to do that was online. Andrew explains, “In the beginning, it was almost the antithesis of physical retail. We thought that was over.” As the company grew, they expanded to other stick-on products including decals, labels, and patches. And while they were spending a lot of money marketing online, they realized that in the overall retail world, the majority of business was still being done at physical stores.

So, they opened a retail location. Andrew says the store was almost like an R&D lab, designed to test in-person buying behavior. And they found that behavior was very different from the online realm. Few in-person shoppers were interested in custom products. Most wanted to browse their huge range of readymade stickers, which span all kinds of categories and themes.

The key to success in both places is the ease of the buying experience — which is the essence of the StickerYou brand.

We've had online influence retail, and retail shape online. You get different information from each experience that can actually help the other.

Knowing your buyers

StickerYou sells to both consumers and businesses through the same website. So how do they address the needs of two unique audiences while maintaining a consistent brand experience? While businesses buy in larger quantities and different formats, they ultimately want the same thing as consumers: a consistent, thorough experience. Andrew explains, “You want to see exactly what you’re going to get and be able to check out easily.” 

Rather than trying to segment customers in B2C or B2B, StickerYou realized that the real differentiating factor was whether buyers were tech savvy or phobic. The former want to talk to a person while the latter prefer to do things themselves. 

Rather than carving out consumer vs. business segments, for us it's more about how customers prefer to buy.

To tailor the experience based on this preference, StickerYou offers a clear, upfront option on their homepage to work with a product expert when requesting a quote. Those who are comfortable can navigate the website to go through the same process. Either way, the buying experience is simple and seamless. 

Letting the channel shape experience

Custom products are a key part of StickerYou’s brand ethos to inspire people. But when they discovered that in-store shoppers were nowhere near as interested in custom products as their online base, they had to quickly change their approach.  

According to Andrew, “We said, why don’t we let the store do what the store can do really well, which is let people buy stickers that are of interest to them, and then just let them know about StickerYou.” So they added a line on the back of every retail package that directs people to the website when they need custom products. “It’s simple,” Andrew says, “but it works. 

We figure out how to make a good channel work on its own, and then over time we synthesize that back to the brand essence in a better way.

Stick around for the whole story

To hear our full conversation with Andrew and learn more about these key takeaways, watch this week’s episode on YouTube or tune in on your favorite podcast platform:

  • Different buying behaviors drive customers on different channels 
  • Start by understanding customer behavior and work backwards
  • Get clear about your core values so you can create brand consistency
  • Don’t pigeon-hole your target audience into predefined categories

You can connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or email him at And don’t forget to sign up for the Brand Interaction Digest for exclusive content from the episode.

Lynn Pine
Lynn Pine

Lynn’s career has spanned across different kinds of content, from copywriting, to journalism, to marketing, and even mystery puzzle games. She brings facets from all these disciplines into her work at Ada. Outside of that, Lynn loves playing games, hiking, and reading about trees.

More info about Lynn Pine: LinkedIn

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