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data Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

5 ways 5G will impact retail

Last month, mobile phone network Three ‘switched on’ its 5G service in London through an immersive experience with fashion designer Henry Holland.   

The “Living Room of the Future” initiative saw visitors able to try on mixed reality headsets from Magic Leap, to enter into a world consisting of everything from a mindfulness moment, to a gaming experience and the delivery of (virtual) House of Holland shoes by drone to your door. 

5G is expected to ramp up in 2020 on a global level. Further cities in Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Italy have already begun adopting it. Meanwhile, in the US, although four cities have turned on the signal, the technology is tied up in a trade war, since China’s Huawei is the dominant 5G supplier. Regardless, the latest Ericsson Mobility Report predicts there will be more than 10 million 5G subscriptions globally by the end of this year, and that 5G population coverage is forecast to reach 45% by 2024.

In it simplest sense, 5G is just a faster version of 4G – about 20x the speed in fact. That coupled with almost no latency, means the new networks will nearly eliminate lag time. This is big news for mobile of course – opening up paths to purchase in even the busiest of crowds for everyday shoppers. 

But its existence will also help power other tech advances, from machine learning to digital realities. Add in features like low energy consumption and higher reliability, and it brings an opportunity for the retail industry to enhance the consumer experience in the physical store with a number of seamless real-time functionalities, leading to increased engagement and conversions. 

As a result, now is the ideal time for retailers to start planning how their stores and interfaces will look when 5G becomes widely available. Here are 5 ways we see it having an impact… 

Connected Spaces

Connectivity in our physical stores, means devices that can constantly exchange data with each other – also known as those under the header of the Internet of Things (IoT). To do so, they need a fast, reliable network that doesn’t require too much power. 5G networks will achieve a 90% reduction in power consumption, guaranteeing up to 10 years of battery life for low power IoT devices. This means, for example, that more retailers will have access to smart shelves like the ones Amazon implemented in its Amazon Go stores. This technology uses dozens of sensors to provide real-time inventory visibility and update pricing according to demand. 

Key tech we’re tracking: dynamic pricing, automated checkouts, connected fitting rooms, automatic replenishment

Amazon Go Store
Immersive Experiences

Augmented and virtual realities use a lot of processing power and cellular data. With the increased capacity of 5G networks, retailers will be able to create richer, more detailed experiences when integrating their physical and digital worlds. This will make technologies that we’re already experimenting with, and seeing consumer adoption of, only more of a possibility. The result will mean shoppers are able to immediately check product materials or ingredients through the use of smart glasses or their smartphones, for instance. Those same apps will also guide customers to the products they want by projecting directions into their field of view in real-time as they navigate the store space.

Key tech we’re tracking: immersive interfaces, gamification, wayfinding

Puma’s new flagship store with gamification
Higher Efficiencies

Artificial intelligence will also thrive on IoT devices via 5G. That’s not to say the AI algorithms themselves will change, but that the higher network will enable more accurate real-time data to flow, ultimately facilitating smarter systems. In retail, for instance, managers will be able to delegate more operational and inventory decisions to automation. This means greater efficiencies as well as accuracies on things like forecasting inventory quantities so as to optimize stock levels, leaving sales associates to spend more time on customer care. Having stock in the right place at the right time will also decrease the risk of losing customers to competitors, as product availability will be more accurate. 

Key tech we’re tracking: retail analytics, inventory visibility, demand forecasting, endless aisle  

Walmart’s endless aisle
Personalization

With lower latency, retailers will also be able to respond to purchasing patterns and behaviors with immersive, tailored content in real-time. Implementing 5G in-store will allow for greater interactions and data collections between sales associates and customers. Real time data could be tracked to create personalized adverts or offers based on the preferences of individual customers, helping to increase the incentive to buy. 

Key tech we’re tracking: marketing automation, personalized promotions, AI recommendations, product search tools, clienteling

Nike’s Melrose store
Fulfilment

The implementation of 5G will also revolutionize logistics by improving  efficiency in fulfilment tasks and increasing the speed of transportation. Greater connectivity and improved reliability will help communications between brands, couriers and consumers. The full capacity of 5G will eventually also enable the roll out of automation in transport and warehouses, thanks to improved processing of the vast amounts of data required in real-time. 

Key tech we’re tracking: smart warehousing, robotics, automated vehicles

Lowebot assisting a consumer

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick Retail technology

Retail automation: A balance of efficiency and ethics

I recently binge-watched a BBC drama called Years and Years. Featuring Emma Thompson as a controversial British prime minister, it’s a frighteningly realistic portrayal of what society might look like given a few more twists and turns from both our political leadership and the technology developments that surround us. 

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it as one to hunker down to next time the weather turns poor wherever you are. The reason for referencing this, however, is that there’s one speech in the show that feels particularly poignant to retail today.  

“We blame these vast sweeping tides of history like they’re out of our control, like we’re so helpless and little and small, but it’s our fault,” the family’s matriarch explains. “You know why? Because of that £1 t-shirt. We can’t resist it, every single one of us – we see a t-shirt that costs £1 and we think that’s a bargain, I’ll have that… The shopkeeper gets 5p for that t-shirt, and some little peasant in a field gets paid 0.01p and we think that’s fine. We buy into that system for life. 

“I saw it all going wrong when it began in the supermarkets, when they replaced all the women on the tills with those automated checkouts… Now all those women are gone and we let it happen. And I think we do like them, those checkouts. We want them because it means we can stroll through, pick up our shopping and we don’t have to look that women in the eye, the woman who’s paid less than us. She’s gone, we got rid of her – sacked. Well done. So yes, it’s our fault. This is the world we built. Congratulations.”

Each of us is complicit in the future world we’re creating, she suggests. And in her view, one full of automation, frankly, is a negative. 

But it’s the detail that’s important here – it’s the fact we thought any level of this automation was right in the first place, even in the most basic sense, and we forgot about the human element of it all in the process. Which is why it stuck in my head, because it’s really so real. 

Automation is something we’ve been talking about for years for the sake of efficiency. In our company, we help integrate all sorts of solutions that facilitate it constantly. And we’ve seen the industry really expanding on this front both in stores and through warehousing for some time. 

UK food delivery service, Ocado, is a market leader for warehouse automation, for instance. Its state-of-the-art facility processes 3.5 million items or around 65,000 orders every week, thanks to a fleet of 1,100 robots. 

Meanwhile, Amazon Go, the unmanned grocery store in the US, is one of the best known customer-facing initiatives in this space. It makes use of a multitude of different technologies – from sensors to image recognition – to enable shoppers to simply walk out while payment is automatically taken without having to interact with any other human being at all.

The interesting thing here, is that for every part of this in action, there are a multitude of startups we work with that do this even better. This is nothing short of a burgeoning space

To that end, John Lewis in the UK also just announced it has partnered with various robotics companies to develop its own human-robot interactions. Its intention, it says, is to have autonomous technology to assist its workers. 

Doing so comes with a multitude of benefits of course – from increased convenience for shoppers when things are faster and easier, through to better service in the process from the sales associates who are on hand to help where it matters. That also means opportunities for upskilling of staff – giving them new and higher skills, leading ultimately to better paid positions. And there’s economic incentive too. According to PWC, AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation have the potential to contribute $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. 

This is all incredibly relevant in the context of John Lewis – one of the most trusted brands on the UK high street. The idea it suggests is that it can turn its customer promise into improved service and commercial value via robotics. 

The question really though is should it? According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 50% of companies expect automation to lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022. Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium estimates that 60% of retail jobs will be at risk due to automation over the next 20 years. 

There’s an argument that previous industrial revolutions have ultimately led to progress – unemployment in one generation opening up new opportunities in the next. But if you want to look really far out, the University of Oxford predicts there is a 50% chance machines will be capable of taking over all human jobs in 120 years. 

That’s a fairly cynical view, but either way there’s an important note about ethics here. The John Lewis announcement came with a note that said its intention is to create an environment of safe and ethical adoption of robots in the industry. Presumably that means one that benefits its workers and not just removes their jobs. 

This isn’t a new conversation in a wider sense. AI ethics and all it consists of has been a technology debate and concern for some time. But for me, this isn’t about worrying over some apocalyptic future where the robots ultimately have intelligence enough to take over from the human race at large. It’s about the right now – the next 10 years and shaping how we want this industry to continue to work. 

I am all for efficiencies – it’s one of the linchpins of what we offer as a company, but that has to come with balance. A report by the Harvard Business Review is interesting in this sense. It suggests that those companies who are using automation mainly to displace employees, should expect to see only short-term productivity gains, whereas those who adopt it alongside staff, will achieve the most significant performance improvements.

That’s the ideal – making it great for business and for the people involved. If automation can give us greater ability to do the things we love, to remove the mundane tasks and those not adding value, it makes sense. After all, why are we doing any of this otherwise if it’s not about benefiting humanity long term. 

But we need to take a stand on this now and decide what we want for our future. There’s a certain element of inevitability to it all, but the human factor should be part of every conversation happening in this space. Ultimately what it comes down to is not do we want this change to happen, but how? It’s our choice, meaning otherwise, as per Year and Years, it will be “our fault”.  

How are you thinking about innovative solutions? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Campaigns data digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: Farfetch acquires Stadium Goods, the UN’s fashion climate charter, ASOS profit warning

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Farfetch acquires Stadium Goods: Why sneaker resale is becoming big business [Forbes]
  • Milestone fashion industry charter for climate action launched [UN]
  • ASOS issues profit warning as Christmas sales falter [The Industry]
TECHNOLOGY
  • China’s retailers turn to real-world surveillance to track big spenders [Wired]
  • Alexa wants you to answer questions [Cognition X]
  • Is the face-swapping robot with multiple ‘personalities’ cool or just plain creepy? [Mashable]
  • Racist, sexist AI could be a bigger problem than lost jobs [Forbes]
  • Is tech too easy to use? [New York Times]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Kering launches first ‘regenerative sourcing’ standard for fashion suppliers [Edie
  • Francisco Costa is back—with the chicest sustainable beauty brand you’ve ever seen [Vogue]
  • The first “plastic-free” supermarket aisle [BBC]
  • Lacoste joins list of brands banning mohair  [Fashion United]
  • Companies used to stay quiet about politics. In 2018, social causes became integral to their branding. [Vox]
  • Is online shopping better or worse for the environment? [WWD]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Here’s how Nike, Alibaba and Walmart are reinventing retail [Wired]
  • The future of fashion is made-to-order, according to Farfetch CEO José Neves [Fast Company]
  • Amazon Go eyes London’s West End for first UK store [Retail Gazette]
  • Why Starbucks is experimenting with experience-based retail [Digiday]
  • E-commerce is thriving in Africa despite hurdles to the “last mile” [Quartz]
  • ‘It’s a big data game’: Startups compete to reinvent the convenience store [Digiday]
  • Lululemon expands test for 1st loyalty program [Retail Dive]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • You can try on the latest Adidas sneaker drop on Snapchat [Engadget]
  • Mall of America debuts holiday AR scavenger hunt [Mobile Marketer]
  • Mr Porter launches gift assistant with Facebook Messenger [Fashion Network]
  • Lululemon and Strava team up to launch a series of virtual races [Runners World]
  • Calvin Klein kills print ads — will other fashion brands follow suit? [Footwear News]
PRODUCT
  • H&M teams up with cult brand Eytys for unisex collection [Fashion United]
BUSINESS
  • Millennial consumers rule the luxury market – how are brands coping? [SCMP]
  • Samsung’s Supreme collaboration in China is with a “counterfeit organization,” Supreme says [Quartz]
  • LVMH expands portfolio with $2.6B Belmond travel deal [Retail Dive]
  • H&M says full year sales increased by 5 percent [Fashion United]
  • Alberta Ferretti under investigation by Italy’s antitrust authority [Fashion United]
CULTURE
  • Self-Portrait is growing in the age of streetwear — without flashy logos or sneakers [Fashionista]
  • Prada pulls monkey designs following outcry over racist imagery [Complex]
  • Diversity on magazine covers increased by a record double-digit percentage in 2018 [Fashionista]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick mobile Retail Uncategorized

Nike’s new flagship empowers customers with seamless, unmanned shopping experience

Nike's new NYC flagship
Nike’s new NYC flagship

Nike’s new NYC flagship unlocks a new level of convenience by allowing customers to navigate the shopping experience in-store entirely on their phones, using the brand’s existing app.

Shoppers at the 5th Avenue store, called House of Innovation 000, can use the app throughout their entire visit and have a completely unmanned experience if they wish to do so. This includes using the “Scan to Try” feature that lets customers scan QR codes on products to get them sent to the fitting room for try on; “Shop the Look”, where a QR code will bring up a mannequin’s entire outfit, which the customer can order through their phone for home delivery; and most importantly, a self-checkout feature where the shopper can pay seamlessly through their phones on services like Apple Pay and PayPal.

Future retail locations around the globe will follow the same concept, blurring the lines between physical and digital.

Customers at home can even reserve shoes online to try on in real life. In this case, the items are placed in a locker with the person’s name on, which they can then unlock with their phones once in-store. The area has its own entrance, so shop-goers can be in and out in a matter of minutes.

The six-storey building also offers multiple environments built around specific needs, such as The Speed Shop, which has all the brand’s most popular items ready to buy; The Arena, a customization area where shoppers can order shoes in whatever color they want; and the Nike Expert Studio, offering one-on-one appointments with stylists.

Nike's new NYC flagship
Nike’s new NYC flagship

In addition to the digital and personalization features, the design of the store is modular, with walls that can be moved using a grid system. In as little as a day, it is possible to adapt the store into a completely different setup for a special event.

Nike’s first hybrid concept store opened earlier this year in Los Angeles as a lab for testing new retail ideas. After tracking members who had visited the store, they gathered that customers spent 30% more online later than those who didn’t have the in-person experience. Meanwhile in October, the brand also opened a similar concept in Shanghai where it has reported it is signing up a new member to the official app every two minutes.

In creating an entirely unmanned experience but still offering customers opportunities for personalization and interaction, Nike is striking a balance between two very different consumer speeds: convenience and experience.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Amazon Go has competition: Meet 6 other automated stores transforming retail

Amazon Go
Amazon Go

As consumers put more and more value on their time, it’s no surprise brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly relying on automation to speed up the shopping experience.

By 2021, Amazon Go plans to open 3,000 of its unmanned stores where customers will shop with no face-to-face interaction. It currently has three locations in Seattle, and a new store just opened in Chicago. Each one offers “Just Walk Out” shopping, powered by hundreds of cameras and sensors to record shoppers movements and purchases. To enter the store, customers scan their phone on a turnstile. Amazon says the stores don’t use facial recognition, just image recognition, which is cross-referenced with weight sensors on the shelves to understand which items have been grabbed.

But Amazon isn’t alone in this race to roll out unmanned doors. Three competing cashierless mini-markets launched within a month in San Francisco, including Standard Cognition, which actually beat them to opening. Meanwhile, on a global basis, they’re competing with everyone from China’s Alibaba to South Korea’s Lotte.

From facial recognition to palm-reading and payment via SMS, here are six further examples of automated stores we’re tracking:

Jack & Jones and Vero Moda

Jack & Jones

In China, facial recognition technology is so commonplace that you don’t need even a mobile phone to shop. Fashion retailers Jack & Jones and Vero Moda opened smart stores using this system in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. First, shoppers complete a facial recognition registration in-store that connects their face with WeChat Pay. At the exit, a digital kiosk reads their face and authorizes the payment. This technology, when combined with AI, helps boost sales; in the fitting room, the mirror also uses facial recognition to identify customers and recommend items based on their shopping history.

Hema

Alibaba’s Hema store

Alibaba also has its own cashierless grocery store, Hema. Launched in 2015, it’s expanded to 46 stores in 13 cities in China. At Hema, self-checkout kiosks use facial recognition to connect with Alipay, the company’s payment app, while digital screens display product details and dynamic prices that update automatically via Wifi-connected, e-ink price tags. In the next five years, Alibaba plans to expand Hema to 2,000 more branches.

Albert Heijn

Albert Heijn

Albert Heijn, a major supermarket chain in the Netherlands, has implemented technology to let customers scan and bag items as they shop more easily than ever. They have two checkout-free stores where customers can tap their phone or credit card on a shelf tag for the items they want. 10 minutes later, the customers’ bank accounts are debited for the amount they spent. If a shopper wants to put back an item, they reverse the chargers by tapping on the tag again.

Dirty Lemon

Dirty Lemon

Cult beverage brand Dirty Lemon made their way from online to real-life this summer. The company’s first store opened last month in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. Shoppers pay via SMS, a heatmap tracker monitors the footsteps of people walking in and out, and RFID technology in the coolers keeps track of inventory. SMS payments isn’t new to Dirty Lemon’s shoppers – the website takes orders exclusively through mobile devices. To order, the customer has to link a credit card number to their phone, which makes it easy to restock by just texting.

Lotte

Lotte

South Korean mega group, Lotte, which owns the likes of Lotte Department Stores, introduced biometric verification of palm veins to its credit card Lotte Card, in partnership with Fujitsu. The result, HandPay, which aims to combat fraud, means users can literally just scan their own hand to pay for their items. Lotte has now begun installing self-registration for such technology at two 7-Eleven convenience stores in Seoul. Soon, the company plans to install these self-registers at all of its subsidiaries, including Lotte Department Stores, Lotterias, and Hi-Marts.

MobyMart

MobyMart

This one is still in prototype, but made the list for the way in which it’s innovating automated retail by putting it on wheels. MobyMart is an unstaffed, mobile grocery store from Swedish startup, Wheelys, that travels in a self-driving vehicle you can “hail” from an app. Payment works through RFID tags that are scanned via phone. There’s also image analysis to track inventory and collect data on customer behavior. For now, this is a beta project that has been running for six months on a university campus in Shanghai. Even though it might take some time for this prototype to hit the streets, the idea looks convenient, especially for remote areas.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Amazon and Hyundai to open automated department store in South Korea

Amazon Go in Seattle
Amazon Go in Seattle

Amazon is teaming up with the Hyundai Department Store Group to open a South Korean version of its checkout-free store experience.

The initiative will see the duo co-develop an unmanned, or self-service, element to a new department store in Seoul, where shoppers will be able to just walk out to initiate automated payments (based on Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology).

They’ll also be able to use a drone delivery service for food and beverage, and an automated concierge made possible through Amazon’s artificial intelligence technology.

“We will apply the next-generation retail technology co-developed with Amazon to Hyundai Department Store Yeouido, scheduled to open in the second half of 2020,” an official from Hyundai said. The Yeouido store, which will be in a skyscraper in Seoul’s financial district, is due to be the largest department store in the city.

It is unclear at this stage whether the experiences will be available across other products categories, besides food and beverage.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology is otherwise in use in the Amazon Go store, an unmanned grocery experience in Seattle, USA. Reports have long suggested it would expand to other cities, and potentially license the tech to other partners.

This agreement with Hyundai is specifically with Amazon Web Services (AWS) division, the e-commerce company’s cloud service provider. The partnership also has plans to set up a membership platform that will analyze purchasing patterns of shoppers, and a large-scale virtual reality theme park.

When it comes to the future of retail, the idea of automated or unmanned stores is increasingly being experimented with. Alongside Amazon is Alibaba, while Walmart is also reportedly building such technology.

Concern lies in what this means for society given the number of retail employees it could affect (there were more than 3.5 million cashier jobs in the US in 2016, according to the Department of Labor), but arguably the increased consumer desire for convenience and speed – and the power of such retail and tech companies to impact change – may well outweigh that.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Alibaba trials facial payments giving shoppers discounts for smiling

Alibaba's facial payment technology
Alibaba’s facial payment technology

Alibaba is trialling a ‘happiness meter’ in its new Futuremart store at its Hangzhou, China HQ, which gives shoppers discounts depending on their mood.

The feature works with the facial recognition payment technology the retail giant has been developing over the past couple of years at participating retailers.

Upon entering the store, customers must check in by both having their faces read, and scanning a QR code with their Alipay, Taobao or Tmall apps, to allow them to shop. Upon leaving, they then have their faces scanned one more time, which in turn will use the “Happy Go” feature to reward discounts for those who are smiling.

Alibaba has been making strides in developing consumer-facing facial recognition technology, famously launching its first smile-to-pay feature at a KFC restaurant in the same Chinese city in 2017.

The strategy also involves major investments in two out of the three facial recognition startups in China, all of which are valued at over $1 billion. This month, it led a $600 million investment round on SenseTime, a Hong Kong-based company whose software is used by businesses, and SNOW, a popular Snapchat-type of app that uses SenseTime to power augmented reality visuals. Its most important client however is the Chinese government, which deploys the technology in public spaces and compares ‘live’ faces against an existing database.

As noted earlier this month, Asia has leapfrogged the West in terms of technologically-enhanced retail experiences, partly due to the Asian consumer’s ease of adoption of technologies, particularly in China. In the US, Amazon Go’s just-walk-out technology was initially met with some skepticism, noted during this year’s Shoptalk by Gianna Puerini, VP of Amazon Go, who said consumers are having to learn the behavior of not having a traditional checkout experience.

As pilot concepts develop both in the East and West, it will be interesting to watch this space to see which will eventually be deployed at mass scale in order to enhance the physical experience.

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Retail technology

Macy’s to launch self-checkouts and VR furniture shopping by the end of 2018

Macy's Mobile Checkout
Macy’s Mobile Checkout

Macy’s is introducing a series of tech capabilities to its brick and mortar store before the end of the year, as the retailer continues to fight to win back space in the US retail race.

Speaking on the first day of retail conference Shoptalk in Las Vegas, CEO Jeff Gennette, introduced a new feature that allows customers to use the Macy’s app to scan an item to pay. To finish the purchase, customers will then merely need to head to a mobile checkout counter located near the exits, where a sales associate will remove any shopping tags and bag the merchandise.

Alongside more convenient click & collect capabilities, these features will be rolled out across every Macy’s location by the end of 2018, he explained.

“We think of the Macy’s app as a key we hand to our customers, a key that allows them to unlock an enhanced shopping experience – a world of possibilities. With this powerful tool in hand, we give them the opportunity to engage with us on their terms. And we keep adding exciting new features to it based on what they tell us,” said Gennette in a press release.

The retailer has also worked with Ohio-based virtual and augmented reality specialist Marxent, to use their 3D Cloud and VR solution to create a VR furniture shopping experience. During early tests, the concept “significantly increased” transaction size, Gennette said.

In the in-store experience, consumers can use tablets to virtually design their own room and place Macy’s furniture inside, which can then be watched in 3D via a VR headset. The feature will roll out at 60 Macy’s locations by the summer. It will also allow the retailer to introduce furniture in smaller retail storefronts as it won’t need to store its full line. In addition, an AR furniture shopping feature will be incorporated into the retailer’s app in April.

Macy's VR Furniture Shopping
Macy’s VR Furniture Shopping

“Consumers today don’t just adopt technology, they absorb it at a tremendous pace, but they want it to be useful to their needs. Like a lot of brands, we’ve experimented with VR in a number of areas and we’re excited to have found a practical application that has proven to drive sales. In furniture, we are giving our customers a new tool that will allow them to virtually test out home furnishings, helping them make more informed decisions on these important purchases,” said Gennette.

At present, furniture retailers such as IKEA and Wayfair are deploying similar capabilities, while AR is also being heavily applied in the beauty industry, and dabbled with in fashion.

Retailers like Macy’s and Target were present at the Shoptalk conference to talk about how they are developing in-store technologies that will respond to consumer demand and help them stay head-above-water when going up against the elephant in the room: Amazon. It was no mere coincidence that on the same day, Gianna Puerini, VP of Amazon Go, and Dilip Kumar, VP of technology for Amazon Go and Amazon Books, also took to the stage, where they shared consumer insights on their store’s cashierless experience since launching in Seattle a little over a year ago.

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e-commerce technology

Amazon Go is a go! Automated store opens to the public

Amazon Go
Amazon Go

Amazon has opened its highly anticipated automated store – Amazon Go – to the public, more than a year after it launched the pilot.

The Seattle-based grocery store has no cashiers on site, as well as no checkouts for shoppers to contend with. Instead they download the Amazon Go app and scan it on entry. From there they can simply walk out with products in order to activate automatic payment.

The idea for the store came five years ago at Amazon. According to Recode, Dilip Kumar, the Amazon Go technology chief who served for nearly two years as CEO Jeff Bezos’ technical adviser, asked the question: “What can we do to improve on convenience?” The answer consistently came back to solving the fact people don’t like waiting in line.

The resulting 1,800 sq ft space features special cameras, shelf sensors that track inventory and the company’s computer vision system. As a result, it knows when you have put something back down, comparative to when you’ve actually walked out with it.

This isn’t however a completely employee-free zone – various staff are on hand to help at the entrance and to restock the shelves.

Until now, only employees of Amazon were able to use the store, which is housed within the e-commerce giant’s headquarters. The concept was first announced in December 2016 but has taken over a year to be consumer-ready while various bugs were ironed out. It couldn’t previously cope when the store got too crowded for instance or when items were misplaced.

The company has yet to announce plans for further rollout or for a business model attached to it. It is imagined however, that Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology may be licensed to other retail partners down the line.

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business digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

What you missed: 3D printing for customisation, against see-now buy-now, Stitch Fix to IPO?

Ministry of Supply is betting big on the power of 3D printing
Ministry of Supply is betting big on the power of 3D printing

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news.


TOP STORIES
  • Ministry of Supply is betting big on the power of 3D printing [Glossy]
  • The case against ‘see now, buy now’ [BoF]
  • Stitch Fix said to be mulling Initial Public Offering [Bloomberg]
  • The myth of the ‘store of the future’ [Glossy]

BUSINESS
  • Triggering Article 50: What Brexit means for fashion [BoF]
  • Amazon buys Souq.com as Middle East online market takes off [Bloomberg]
  • Can Jet.com take a bite out of Amazon Fashion? [BoF]
  • BFC launches British high-end manufacturers database [The Industry]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How Instagram beat out Snapchat as fashion’s ‘social darling’ [Glossy]
  • Retailers can now make Instagram posts much more shoppable [AdWeek]
  • Facebook continues its video push with shoppable ad format for mobile [Campaign]
  • 6 ways luxury brands use WeChat for marketing campaigns in China [JingDaily]

MARKETING
  • This agency used a weather balloon to fly Nike’s new Vapormax shoe into space [AdWeek]
  • Shinola’s uplifting new ads celebrate America’s builders, makers and do-gooders [AdWeek]
  • M&S’ advertising rethink will not see it target ‘Mrs M&S’ [The Drum]
  • Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing ad campaign changes according to real-time weather forecasts [WGSN]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • House of Fraser turning to experiential retail [Fashion United]
  • How retailers can drive profitable growth through dynamic pricing [McKinsey]
  • How Generation Z is transforming the shopping experience [Retail Dive]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Retailers explain how AI is being used in fashion [Glossy]
  • Report: Amazon Go public opening postponed over tech hiccups [Retail Dive]
  • Did people suffer for your cotton shirt? DNA tagging lets you track its origins [Fast Company]
  • It only took 5,000 years, but the flip-flop is finally getting smarter [Fast Company]

START-UPS
  • Kering teams With Plug and Play on fashion sustainability start-up accelerator [Footwear News]
  • Tristan Walker: ‘No one wants to fund e-commerce companies anymore’ [Recode]