Walmart's Andy Dunn says ecommerce creates radical new possibilities for store-based retailing, and that the retail giant cares about launching unique brands that connect with consumers' values.

Ecommerce alone can help a clothing brand a long way, but for men’s clothing brand Bonobos, a breakout moment came when the company realized the power of matching the online engagement with the tactile experience of trying things on, Bonobos founder Andy Dunn said Wednesday at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition @RetailX in Chicago.

“We got stuck with our early adopter customers and kind of topped out,” said Dunn, now Walmart’s senior vice president of digital consumer brands.

Then an early experiment—aimed at launching a new line of Bonobos shirts—brought men into the company’s offices to “alpha test” the shirts. The shirts were not a hit, but the company’s pants—the product line that launched the company—were. Bonobos employees found themselves executing pants orders online for the customers who had come in to try on shirts.

That experience led to the creation of what is now a network of more than 60 Bonobos Guide Shops. The shops don’t carry much inventory. Instead, the focus is on personalized services for orders that are processed online. Removing the need to stock the stores made it possible to “add back” the kind of service retailers had moved away from and that led to reaching new customers, Dunn said.

“The nature of ecommerce drastically changes what you can do with brick-and-mortar,” Dunn says. The store becomes less about delivering inventory and more about providing experiences that historically weren’t possible in traditional stores or ecommerce.

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After selling Bonobos to Walmart and moving to the retail giant, Dunn says he learned a valuable lesson when his team launched the Allswell mattress brand. Initially, “nobody cared that Walmart was launching a mattress brand called Allswell,” Dunn said. The brand did not sell very well.

What turned Allswell around, Dunn said, was connecting it to Walmart’s fundamental values, which include low prices and values-based business practices. The team found ways to lower the price of the mattress in ways that did not reduce its quality. At the lower price, the mattresses were “flying,” Dunn said.

The Allswell brand also began working with Good360, a charity that helps companies donate excess merchandise to charities instead of destroying it. Allswell says all of its mattress donations are allocated to foster care organizations. The brand also gives Good360 a donation of $25 for every verified product review, up to a cap of $250,000 per year.

Values-based business practices have never been more critical than now, Dunn said. Consumers want products that are not merely commodities from brands that stand for something, and Walmart understands that, he said. As an example, he cited Netflix, which differentiated itself by creating original, innovative programming.

Walmart believes revolutionary products and ecommerce should be available to everyone, and not just those who can pay a lot for the privilege of participating.

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“Walmart is a great platform for doing that,” Dunn said.

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