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Editor's pick Retail technology

4 technologies aiding in-store navigation

Big box retailers including Walmart’s Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target are using a variety of interesting wayfinding technologies to improve customer navigation inside the physical store.

The result is designed to enable efficiency in the customer journey. This is in response to the fact that as online sales growth surpasses brick-and-mortar, customers are expecting more than just easy access to online products in physical stores, they also want to find them faster.

Cue solutions ranging from robots to augmented reality mapping. Read on for some of the strongest examples in the market to date…

Augmented Reality
Legoland Denmark augmented reality app

Home store Lowe’s was one of the first retailers to introduce an app with augmented reality indoor mapping. Instead of a 2-D image, this mobile service projects navigation signs and price specials on top of the user’s field of view – meaning they can see which direction to go in projected through their smartphones straight onto the floor or space in front of them. 

Outside of the retail space, Legoland in Denmark has recently experimented with an AR wayfinding app that helps visitors navigate around the park via a mini Lego avatar. They can also then receive real-time information on wait times ahead of them.

Voice Search
Sam’s Club Scan & Go app

Sam’s Club Now in Dallas, Walmart’s test store for technology, is also focusing on a mobile-first shopping experience. Its Scan & Go app helps customers easily access products with an integrated system using voice search for navigation. When a shopper tells the app what they need, a map directs them to the item on the shopfloor. 

Home Depot’s version meanwhile, allows users to use voice or visual search to find a specific item and then be shown exactly where it’s located within the store. Macy’s launched something similar back in 2016 with IBM Watson, which enabled users to ask question as to where specific products, departments, and brands were located, as well as what services and facilities could be found in a particular store.

Robotics
The LoweBot

From voice technology then comes robotics. Lowe’s was also one of the first to make it easier for customers to find help on the shop floor by deploying robot attendants. The “LoweBot” responds to voice commands, guiding customers through the aisles with smart laser sensors.

For Kyle Nel, executive director at Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the LoweBot resolves a common problem: “When I walk into a store and I want to know where something is I want to know right then — I don’t want to have to download an app — a robot can really help with that.”

Real-time Beacons
Target

Target is heavily investing in beacon technology for the sake of navigation also. It renewed its stores to use energy-efficient LED lighting with built-in Bluetooth beacons, which enable the store’s app to show customers their real-time location on the shop floor in a similar experience to that of Google Maps. They also help notify customers when they walk by one of Target’s “Cartwheel” deals.

Gatwick Airport has also invested in beacon technology as part of its £2.5bn transformation. Here, 2,000 indoor navigation beacons have been installed to help customers easily navigate around the terminals and reduce the amount of missed flights. Augmented reality plays a part here too, with a blue line mapped through the smartphone for users to show them which direction to go in.

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 digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media technology

ICYMI: Starbucks’ blockchain rewards scheme, luxury in the age of digital Darwinism

Starbucks’ Rewards scheme
Starbucks’ Rewards scheme

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

TOP STORIES
  • Starbucks’ Rewards scheme is part of its much bigger vision for a blockchain-backed digital currency [TheDrum]
  • Luxury in the age of digital Darwinism [McKinsey]
  • Meet fashion’s first computer-generated influencer [BoF]
  • Instagram appeal: How social media is changing product development in beauty [Digiday]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Retail spending on AI to reach $7.3B by 2022 [Retail Dive]
  • MIT scientists created accessories that change color to match your outfit [QZ]
  • The Grammys brought IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence to the red carpet [AdWeek]
  • Walmart’s new robots are loved by staff—and ignored by customers [TechnologyReview]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn explains the Walmart acquisition: ‘We have a safe and permanent home’ [Glossy]
  • Personalization is a priority for retailers, but can online vendors deliver? [AdWeek]
  • H&M moves into the off-price marketplace with Afound [FashionUnited]
  • Selfridges launches world’s first in-store boxing gym [FashionNetwork]
  • Mashable and eBay team up for launch of shoppable images pilot [TheDrum]
PRODUCT
  • Adidas Boost: the sneaker technology that changed a company’s fortunes [GQ]
  • GlassesUSA.com to launch 3D printable glasses [FashionUnited]
  • Amazon just patented some creepy “Black Mirror”-esque tracking wristbands [FastCompany]
BUSINESS
  • After 15 years, eBay plans to cut off PayPal as its main payments processor [Recode]
  • Ralph Lauren is discovering how hard it is to fix a brand [Fortune]
  • H&M admits ‘mistakes’ in handling shift to online shopping [FT]
  • JD.com puts France at the heart of its internationalization strategy [FashionNetwork]
Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

What you missed: Chanel vs Amazon space travel, Massenet’s VC firm, robots at retail

Chanel's spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris) - space technology
Chanel’s spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris)

Chanel grabbed everyone’s attention once again at Paris Fashion Week – this time for another future-focused theme with its spacecraft set design. Kudos to the work that went into that but can you imagine the budget? Even Karl Lagerfeld’s visions have got to come back down to earth (excuse the pun) at some point – where is the true value, is the question? Jeff Bezos of Amazon meanwhile, is genuinely exploring how to ship products to the moon.

Elsewhere this week, we’re also talking about Natalie Massenet’s other role running her own VC firm alongside her new co-chair position at Farfetch; the incoming of robots at retail; news of Everlane ditching Facebook Messenger notifications (an interesting move that may spell some serious indication around chatbot ROI); and under our tech header, a must-read from Wired on Ford’s future city including hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers.

If you’re headed to SXSW this weekend, we look forward to seeing you there – don’t forget to check out our handy content guide en route.


TOP STORIES
  • Chanel focuses on space travel for Paris Fashion Week show with branded spacecraft [Vogue]
  • An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon [Washington Post]
  • Natalie Massenet, Nick Brown to form venture firm Imaginary Ventures [WWD]
  • Robots will be in retail stores sooner than you think [Forbes]

BUSINESS
  • Sports Direct clarifies purchase of Agent Provocateur [FT]
  • BCBG Max Azria gets bankruptcy loan as chain plots asset sale [Bloomberg]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Everlane, one of Facebook Messenger’s first retail partners has ditched it as a notification tool [Recode]
  • Snap pops 40% to start trading at a crackling $33 billion valuation [Quartz]
  • How 5 brands are using Snapchat Spectacles [Digiday]
  • Fashion series are popping up on Instagram Stories [Glossy]

MARKETING
  • Benetton launches new women’s equality campaign [The Industry]
  • L’Oreal’s UK CMO: ‘We are very clear on where our media money is going’ [The Drum]
  • France’s ARPP takes issue with “degrading” Saint Laurent ads [Luxury Daily]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Target unveils $7B plan to overhaul stores, digital operations [Retail Dive]
  • Mall retailers are competing on speed to stay relevant [Glossy]
  • ‘Notoriously difficult’: Inside the unraveling of the Thrillist-JackThreads marriage of content and commerce [Digiday]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Ford’s future city: hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers [Wired]
  • Virtual reality: growth engine for fashion? [BoF]
  • Apple reportedly could have over 1,000 engineers working on AR in Israel [Road to VR]
  • IBM Watson, Salesforce Einstein form AI dream team to aid retail, other industries [Retail Dive]
  • The emerging technologies getting us excited from MWC 2017 [The Drum]
Categories
Editor's pick mobile social media technology

Chatbots and VR lead this season’s top tech trends in retail

Google's Window Wonderland virtual reality experience
Google’s Window Wonderland virtual reality experience

Technology is playing an ever-important role in the shopping side of the holiday season. Logistics aside, which is of course critical at this time of year, tech is also proving increasingly key from an experiential and a customer service perspective both online and offline. Leading that charge for 2016 are virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Google has employed the former this year, for instance, to allow consumers to ‘walk’ along Fifth Avenue in New York to experience all the holiday window displays.

Window Wonderland, as the initiative is called, is a VR experience that lets users view 18 different retailers including Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co, Burberry and more. They can zoom in on the displays and even listen to audio guides from some of the store creatives talking about this year’s work.

The experience was produced by Google’s Art, Copy & Code team by taking hundreds of high-resolution images of each store and then stitching them together so they can be viewed via a web browser, on a smartphone or tablet, or through a VR headset. The effect is almost like a moving image; a rich, life-like panorama.

“We all love the window tradition here. It’s such an iconic thing. We thought it might be fun to put a unique Google spin on it and bring it to the masses,” Aman Govil, head of the Art, Copy & Code projects team, told Fast Company.

VR is also getting a spin in the UK, where department store John Lewis has introduced an experience tied to its Buster the Boxer advertising campaign. Visitors to its Oxford Street flagship in London can enter the world of Buster and all his friends using an Oculus Rift. They can also view a 360-degree film using Google Cardboard or by watching it on YouTube.

Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, is being heavily experimented with in the form of chatbots for the holidays.

IBM Watson has worked with Mall of America for instance, on a Facebook Messenger bot called E.L.F, which stands for Experiential List Formulator. Created in collaboration with Watson developer partner Satisfi, it helps visitors plan a more personalised experience to the shopping centre by determining things like how much time they have and what activities they prefer.

“The holiday season is upon us and, for many, this represents the most hectic shopping period of the year. Whether you’re navigating crowded shopping centres or debating what gifts to buy, the in-store experience can be particularly overwhelming,” explains Don White, CEO of Satisfi. The chatbot aims to better understand, connect with, and create superior experiences for shoppers accordingly.

The E.L.F chatbot from IBM Watson and Satisfi
The E.L.F chatbot from IBM Watson and Satisfi

The launch of Facebook Messenger’s bot store earlier this year is behind much of the drive for experimentation in this space. Already throughout 2016, we’ve seen fashion and retail brands including Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Everlane, eBay and more launching their own versions. In total, 33,000 different bots have been introduced since April.

For the holidays, Burberry has extended its version from the original one it launched for London Fashion Week. This time, users are introduced to its The Tale of Thomas Burberry festive campaign, which tells the story behind its founder. Different layers of the tale are unveiled using emojis, including the invention of Gabardine fabric in 1879 using a raindrop, the introduction of Sienna Miller’s character using a heart, and more. Users can also see behind-the-scenes of the film, browse gift ideas and opt into a ‘live chat’ with a human consultant.

This mix of storytelling, product discovery and customer service is seen as the likely future for chatbots; making consumer engagement possible at a much wider scale than could have been achieved before. It’s about answering as much as possible for shoppers through AI, before escalating to a human only when needed.

Burberry's Facebook Messenger chatbot
Burberry’s Facebook Messenger chatbot

Gift guides is another example. Chatbots are making suggestions for what to buy at a much greater level of detail than ever before, as achieved by the likes of H&M and American Eagle using messaging service, Kik, which also has a substantial bot store.

Nordstrom’s bot, available on both Kik and Facebook and developed in collaboration with mobile messaging company Snaps, also focuses on helping shoppers find the perfect Christmas presents.

Estée Lauder’s No. 6 Mortimer in London is even making purchases possible directly through the Facebook Messenger app. Customers can checkout using Paypal without having to go to an outside website. Mark Lapicki, director of retail innovation at The Estée Lauder Companies UK and Ireland, told WWD the pilot service was for “time-poor consumers seeking ultimate convenience, with immediate purchase and delivery of our products in as little as 60 minutes”.

While significant conversions aren’t anticipated from each of those experimenting this season – aware of the fact such interaction remains very new for consumers – this is a trend expected to carry through and make significant inroads for 2017.

This story first appeared on Forbes

Categories
technology

AI ‘elves’ from IBM Watson could help with your festive shopping

The E.L.F chatbot from IBM Watson and Satisfi
The E.L.F chatbot from IBM Watson and Satisfi

Artificial intelligence is getting a kickstart for the holiday season with an elf-themed chatbot launching at Mall of America.

E.L.F, or Experiential List Formulator, is an IBM Watson-enabled platform, created in collaboration with Watson developer partner Satisfi, which helps visitors plan a more personalised shopping experience. It understands and interprets their queries using the Watson Conversation API and AlchemyLanguage API, both through Facebook Messenger or online on mobile and desktop via elf.mallofamerica.com.

Visitors to the shopping centre in Bloomington, MN, are guided through a series of questions from E.L.F to understand things like how much time they have and what activities they prefer. The service then presents them a series of suggestions, including ideal stores, theme park rides and shows.

The pilot programme aims to better understand, connect with, and create superior experiences for in-store shoppers, according to Don White, CEO of Satisfi. Head over to Forbes to find out more.

Categories
Editor's pick mobile technology

Macy’s teams with IBM Watson for AI-powered mobile shopping assistant

IBM Watson Macy's
The new AI-powered Macy’s On Call mobile tool from IBM Watson and Satisfi

Macy’s is set to launch an in-store shopping assistant powered by artificial intelligence thanks to a new tie-up with IBM Watson via developer partner and intelligent engagement platform, Satisfi.

Macy’s On Call, as it’s called, is a cognitive mobile web tool that will help shoppers get information as they navigate 10 of the retail company’s stores around the US during this pilot stage.

Customers are able to input questions in natural language regarding things like where specific products, departments, and brands are located, to what services and facilities can be found in a particular store. In return, they receive customised relevant responses. The initiative is based on the idea that consumers are increasingly likely to turn to their smartphones than they are a store associate for help when out at physical retail.

Head over to Forbes for the full story on what the technology itself includes as well as further detail on what the experience enables the customer to do.

Categories
Editor's pick technology

Future of retail: artificial intelligence and virtual reality have big roles to play

Frontier(less) Retail, the new report from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence in collaboration with WWD
Frontier(less) Retail, the new report from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence in collaboration with WWD

From artificial intelligence to virtual reality, emerging technologies are rewriting the retail playbook at a rapid pace, suggests J. Walter Thompson Intelligence in a new report called Frontier(less) Retail.

Launched in collaboration with WWD, the report explores the idea that brands and retailers are increasingly putting innovation at the core of their strategies. This relates to everything from digital integration through to the more future-looking technologies helping to shift their businesses forward.

Rebecca Minkoff has boosted sales with smart mirrors in dressing rooms, it notes, while Kate Spade has had a hit with Everpurse, a smartphone-charging handbag. It also attributes the success of Under Armour in part to its positioning as a tech-forward brand, and references Topshop’s new incubator program, Top Pitch, as a clever bid to achieve the same at a time when its young consumer base is more likely to spend on smartphones than splurge on streetwear.

Head over to Forbes for the full story exploring the role that artificial intelligence and virtual reality have to play in a data-driven more experiential retail landscape.

Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Wearable technology hits Met Gala red carpet, robot inspiration follows

Clairedanes_zacposen_fiberoptic

The theme of “technology” was taken quite literally on the red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala in New York last night, with celebrities including Claire Danes and Karolina Kurkova both stepping out in light-up eveningwear looks.

Danes wore a pale blue Zac Posen dress made from a fiber optic woven organza (as pictured). Reminiscent of a modern-day Cinderella, the fairytale look came alive in the dark, glowing from head-to-toe. Posen teased the gown via his Instagram channel, where followers got to see the impressive lights working to full effect.

Supermodel Kurkova meanwhile was dressed in a look designed by Marchesa, in collaboration with IBM. More than just a garment covered in three-dimensional LED flowers, this was also an intelligent piece of work that reacted to online conversation about the event in real-time throughout the night.

Read more about this cognitive design, plus check out all the celebs that took the “Manus x Machina” theme to the robotic extreme, via Forbes. A positive view: the real future of our wardrobes was also highlighted by those turning to sustainable design.

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data digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Ralph Lauren’s connected fitting room, IBM Watson predicts holiday shopping, Burberry customers can star in new campaign

Here’s a round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

A Polo Ralph Lauren associate trying out the interactive fitting

  • Ralph Lauren and Oak Labs debut interactive fitting rooms [WWD]
  • IBM Watson trend app predicts hot holiday shopping items [AdAge]
  • Burberry makes customers the star of their own fashion campaign [Brand Republic]
  • Sephora’s new retail stores will take cues from YouTube [Digiday]
  • New Balance will sell 3D-printed shoes in Boston starting next year [Beta Boston]
  • Target’s big digital holiday campaign combines Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram [AdWeek]
  • J Crew and American Girl embrace social commerce ads for the holidays [AdWeek]
  • Andy Dunn’s plans to build a digital native brand empire with Bonobos [Redef]
  • Burberry receives top ranking in L2 digital index [Yahoo]
  • Macy’s imagines the shop of the future in time for Black Friday [PSFK]
  • What’s behind the exodus from Rent the Runway? [Fortune]
  • Amazon touts new drone prototype [WSJ]
  • Brooklyn’s Catbird prioritises digital over brick-and-mortar expansion [Fashionista]
  • Is there still hope for fashion crowdfunding? [BoF]
  • Can artificial intelligence sell shoes? [WSJ]
  • Three ways data is transforming fashion retail [WGSN]
  • Instant messaging will change the way brands talk to customers, says Tictail [Wired]
  • The potential of geolocation for revolutionising retail [HBR]
  • Retail enters third phase of digital evolution [FT]
  • Will social selling work in fashion? [BoF]
  • Hands-on with Facebook’s haphazard shopping feed [TechCrunch]
  • The future of shopping is… Second Life on acid? Imagining a virual reality mega mall [Co.Design]
  • Stitch Fix creates an army of brand advocates, one social share at a time [The Future of Commerce]
Categories
Editor's pick technology

A whistle-stop tour through the future shopping experience

This article first appeared on Dazed 

dazed_futureshopping_pinarviola
Have you ever had one of those moments where the person walking down the street just a few steps ahead of you, is wearing a coat you’re desperate to own? Once upon a time you may have built up the courage to chase after her and ask where it’s from. Not far from now you’ll be able to pull out your smartphone, snap a shot of it and image recognition technology from Cortexica or in apps like Asap54 and Snap Fashion will accurately do its work to tell you not only what brand it is, but where nearby has it in stock too.

On this occasion, imagine you’re headed to an upmarket department store with availability in your size. As you walk through the door iBeacon transmitters using Bluetooth low energy technology activate and send a welcome notification to your phone. The message lets you know there’s also a 15% off offer on all products today.

You click to open the corresponding app for the store itself, and it syncs with the earlier image recognition system to show you exactly where to find the item you want. You’re wearing your new designer (Ray-Ban) smart glasses (Google), which personalise your view on the store – an augmented reality overlay from Blippar is placed on your surroundings directing you with turn-by-turn navigation as you walk.

Additional information pops up as you head that way, alerting you to items you specifically might like. It knows your purchase history and can flag up pieces that will style well with what you already own. Privacy isn’t a concern – you’ve opted-in for this. You know this department store well and like a classic loyalty programme, there’s a sense of value attached to letting them know who you are.

1080000

Further special prices and offers are highlighted and adapted especially for you based on your social influence too. If you opt to share with friends you will receive yet a further discount.

As you lift dresses and tops off the rails, the hangers activate screens alongside you featuring images and videos of models wearing the items. The system is gesture-controlled thanks to Microsoft Kinect, so you can wave to scroll beyond each shot to see further details about each garment; where it comes from, what the manufacturing process was, even what the washing instructions are.

You can also pull up a virtual assistant to help you. Created by a company called Fluid, this is a cognitive computing based system developed using IBM Watson. It understands natural human language allowing you to ask it a question as you would a friend. As it’s also based on voice recognition, you simply tell it about your upcoming holiday and request suggestions for what you might need.

It returns a list of specific products based on the climate of your destination as well as what it knows is trending in that market. Rather than relying on keywords to surface specific product, the artificially intelligent app (yes, think robot) acts more like a personal shopper would, offering options based on context.

You take all the items you’ve selected into the fitting room. Each garment has a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, meaning the room recognises each piece individually. As you try them on, content is activated on the mirror, including recommendations for what you could wear with it, like a necklace and pair of shoes to go with the dress, or a bag to match your skirt. A 3D printer outside from 3D Systems allows you to instantly print any matching accessories you wish to buy.

The virtual experience, this time powered by Accenture and Microsoft, also shows you what the piece you’re wearing would look like on you in different colours. It lets you connect with a sales assistant automatically who brings you in new pieces, then offers you that all-important human connection in terms of advice and expertise on what suits you best.

The mirror you’re looking into also has a memory. Created by MemoMi with Intel, it has saved 360-degree views of what you’ve tried on so far to a right hand column on the display, so when you’re still not quite sure on what to buy you can go back and look at each of them, or share a couple of them with friends to help.

One of the dresses you want for an upcoming event doesn’t quite fit as nicely as you’d like it to, so you activate the connected fitting room to do a full 3D body scan of your figure. That data can then be sent off with the item to be tailored exactly to fit. The sales assistant lets you know you also have the option to have it made up in other fabrics – she passes you her tablet, which uses haptic technology (tiny vibrations that recreate what something feels like) to allow you to run your finger over the screen and feel the different textures.

You make your choices and use the e-tattoo on your wrist with personal authentication details to make payment; it syncs once again with your store loyalty scheme so you get the best deal possible that day.

As you head out you decide to stop at a virtual storefront powered by eBay, this time to select food for dinner. It senses the Apple health tracker you’re wearing and through a number of apps you’ve downloaded can identify the nutrients you’re missing from the day. It suggests a recipe, and at a quick touch of a button syncs with the sensors in your fridge at home and detects the ingredients you’re missing. They’ll be delivered by drone by the time you get home.

Visual Credits:

Artwork by Pinar & Viola

Model wears Janneke Verhoeven

3D pet designed by Alewism