Selected, part of the Bestseller Fashion Group, has opened a tech-enabled store in Beijing aiming to elevate its image as an aspirational brand in the Chinese market.
The store features smart mirrors in its fitting rooms, pocket-sized screens providing additional product information, as well as a live social media feed.
The technology is meant to impress the Chinese customer, who is already quite adept with connected experiences. For example the magic mirrors in the fitting rooms are equipped with functionalities that allow shoppers to swipe through outfits to find the perfect match. It further allows them to to share their favorites through Chinese social network WeChat.
A selection of “Debrief” screens are otherwise located throughout the store in digestible pocket-sized formats, which allow consumers to access additional product information, education on material composition, as well as styling inspiration.
A live social media feed is shown on a screen behind the checkouts evoking a sense of constant newness for the store’s customers. There are also reported projections and kinetic signage in place.
The concept, dubbed “Future You”, will roll out across a series of Selected’s stores in the Chinese capital.
Jack & Jones and Vero Moda, two further brands in the Bestseller Fashion Group, also experimented with in-store technology in China last year. In two smart stores, located in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the brands launched facial recognition kiosks that allowed customers, once registered to the Tencent powered technology, to check out using only their faces – without the need for cash or a credit card.
How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Department store Neiman Marcus is claiming a stake of the $25bn Hudson Yards development opening in lower Manhattan in NYC this week with a megastore that merges traditional and omnichannel retail.
The space, which takes up five out of seven floors of the retail complex, is the retailer’s latest play at engaging with a new luxury consumer that is not only seeking products, but experiences and education alongside.
On the lower floor, for example, the retailer is hosting a kitchen for live demonstrations, while Neiman Marcus Live is a space on the middle floor that can hold up to 100 people for events like talks and Q&As with fashion designers and industry pioneers. The store also features a bar, named Stanley, which overlooks the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Vessel structure, a larger-than-life center piece for the Hudson Yards complex.
Technology is being blended into the space in order to give the luxury customer a one-to-one, tailored interaction with sales staff.
The Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, who is the former head of the Neiman Marcus iLab, and was responsible for the technology execution in the new store before his departure, said: “We applied creative approaches and partnerships so that the consumer-facing technology was both useful to the shopper, and fit naturally into a very luxurious retail environment.”
This includes a smart fitting room where customers can ‘check in’ upon entering, which will then act as a communication tool between shopper and sales associate. The customer can request new items, different sizing and even signal they are ready to check out through a personal screen, which is then communicated to the associate’s mobile POS system.
The fitting room experience was designed to easily be updated with new capabilities in the future, such as self-checkout or recommendation technologies, as well as enhance the ever-important role of the associate.
“Technology in this instance, is being used to not only deliver an optimal customer experience but act as a digital exoskeleton to supercharge the capabilities of the sales associates,” Emmons added.
It’s for this reason he believes this store is an example of what retail needs to look like in the future. “New York is one of the toughest places in the world to be a retailer and stand out from very capable competitors. Technology is not the only answer but when combined with the visual aspects, the right merchandise, experiential aspects and so forth, it can put you over the top.”
“This is how we think about things at the Current Global – removing technology from its vacuum and into the wider context of creative innovation in order to meet pressing consumer demands. At the end of the day, traditional retail must be weaved together with modern tech to enable customers to be seen and treated like individuals, and not market segments. Technology for the sake of it will never respond to basic human needs of having emotional connections when purchasing luxury.
“At a time when so many department stores are failing, what Neiman Marcus has pulled off is an inspiring example of what luxury retail should be. It’s a combination of great experience, great staffing, great environment and the right tech.”
How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global 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.
Much has been said about the death of the store at the hands of the digital era, but retailers and brands with physical footprints are increasingly harnessing technology to instil a sense of connectivity and immersion in their spaces.
Front and center within that is the Asia market, which is setting the standard by responding to consumers’ avid connected behavior and facilitating increasingly digitized physical journeys that perfectly blend both realities.
Here, we highlight four of our favorite recent brand examples.
Ford and Alibaba’s unstaffed car vending machine
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has partnered with automaker Ford on a cat-shaped car vending machine in China that allows potential buyers the chance to try-before-they-buy. The structure, located in Guangzhou, is completely self-directed and available only to Alibaba’s Super Members, the highest tier of membership in the retailer’s program.
Once users go through a background check on the Alibaba app, they can select their preferred vehicle and head to one of the Super Test-Drive Centers. Arriving at the location, they can use either facial recognition or a login code to trigger the test-drive experience, which they can do for up to three days.
Starbucks’ augmented coffee mecca
Starbucks meanwhile is focusing on augmented reality in its new Shanghai Reserve Roastery, where the coffee brand tapped into the Chinese consumer’s mobile-first behavior by creating a digital scavenger hunt.
Available through Taobao, consumers have to scan a code in-store and then proceed to scan coffee machines and brewers around the store to trigger content. Doing so with such physical objects activates animations on the mobile screen, and then offers the user more information on the coffee making process, such as how specific machines roast the coffee.
By offering consumers more branded storytelling through mobile, the company aligns with its Reserve Roastery concept ethos, which is to act as a mecca on all things coffee-making, and serve avid customers accordingly.
Shiseido’s smart diagnosis and brand content mirrors
Smart mirrors might not be anything new within the ‘tech in-store’ discussion, but at Shiseido’s recently opened flagship in the Ginza Six shopping complex in Tokyo, the connected device offers more granular and personalized content than we’ve seen before, including around diagnosis.
Customers visiting the store can have their picture taken by a smart mirror, which results in a skin analysis and step-by-step guidance on screen on how to apply a curation of products. Afterwards, users can scan a QR code generated on the screen to put their counselling data on their own phone.
Additional features in Shiseido’s tech-enabled store, include screens that change visuals whenever someone is within two meters of them, as well as smart tables that recognize when a specific product has been picked up, and generate information on a smart screen accordingly.
Jack & Jones and Vero Moda’s facial recognition payments
You can’t talk about Asia without mentioning WeChat, and in this instance the future of payments. Danish fashion brands Jack & Jones and Vero Moda, part of the Bestseller group, have recently opened smart stores in two Chinese locations that are powered by Tencent’s facial recognition technology, allowing customers to pay with their face.
Located in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the smart stores allow shoppers to shop without the need for cash or even their mobile phones. After completing the facial recognition registration at digital kiosks in-store, shoppers become members of the Tencent’s “AI Club”, which is powered by WeChat Pay. When checking out, they can then use the feature to complete the payment, which is debited through their WeChat wallets.
Beyond cashless (and mobile-less) payment capabilities, the entire store experiences can be automated. At the fitting room, the same technology is applied – once the shopper is recognized by a smart screen, they can receive recommendations based on past purchases.
New York-based designer Rebecca Minkoff has launched a self-checkout option in her Soho store. Partnering with QueueHop to provide the technology, the aim is to ease the shopping experience for the millennial consumer the brand is targeted at.
“More and more we are seeing millennials want to be in complete control of any and all of their shopping, and that includes payment,” said Uri Minkoff, CEO at Rebecca Minkoff. “Long gone are the days where you needed to depend fully on a sales assistant to request new sizes or to ring you up. We needed to continue finding ways to make her feel like she can have multiple experiences.”
Part of that move is to protect a certain level of anonymity so highly regarded by supposed millennials, according to Minkoff. The QueueHop system comes with an RFID tag that brings the item up for payment on an iPad and an anti-theft device that only unlocks after that exchange is made. That means there is literally no need to speak to or deal with a sales associate at all if so desired, much like the online shopping experience feels.
As Minkoff told Fast Company: “When we were going through our initial technology layout, we took on the view that the millennial consumer either wanted to be treated like a celebrity—a VIP with full service—or anonymously. [We wondered] what if they could have the store to themselves after-hours? Or how could you approximate the online shopping experience that you’re checking out by yourself, and it’s very quiet?”
“Is this going to maximize our sales in a huge way? Probably not. Do we have a huge shrinkage [theft] problem? Probably not. But we think it’s important for us to let our customer know that we get her,” he added. He also referred to it as removing the “Pretty Woman moment” – enabling shoppers to no longer feel judged by staff for what they look like and instead enjoy the experience. It’s about letting technology police customers, rather than bias.
The Rebecca Minkoff Soho store also houses the brand’s connected fitting room experience, where users are able to reserve items, as well as change colours, sizing and more through the system, without having to hang their heads out and get a sales associate’s attention.
British shoppers now expect stores to be tech-enabled with an array of features like smart fitting rooms and virtual reality, according to the Barclays New Retail Reality report.
Its study of 2,000 consumers, reveals that 65% of shoppers are eager to see more touchscreen technology, while newer, more experiential technologies are popular too. Shoppers are more likely to visit a store kitted out with virtual reality (57%), smart fitting rooms (57%) or augmented reality (52%).
In addition, while the appetite for the use of drones in retail is muted, with around two-thirds of shoppers citing worries about security, privacy and collisions, new payment technologies can’t come fast enough. They’re highly rated by consumers, with many describing contactless (48%) and mobile payments (37%) as “life changing”.
In another technological shift, shoppers are now five times more likely to use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to complain about a product than they were three years ago. And they want a quick response when they complain, with one in three (38%) expecting a complaint made via social media responded to within an hour.
Londoners are keenest about new retail technologies, closely followed by those in the North West. Respondents from this region are among the country’s most eager for biometric payments, mobile payments, smart fitting room and touchscreen technologies in stores.
Shoppers in Manchester are especially keen to trial virtual reality technologies in-store, even more so than those in London. In addition, although appetite for drone delivery services is more muted overall, shoppers in London and Northern Ireland are most eager for the introduction of them.
Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “Our research reveals that the public still sees the high street as an essential part of the shopping experience [but] consumer expectations are currently moving faster than retailer innovation.”
The research also throws up some interesting points about Brexit. Britons said they want the industry protected during Brexit negotiations. Two thirds (64%) of consumers say they’re proud of the service that UK retailers provide to society, and a similar proportion (65%) want the protection of UK retailers and goods prioritised during Brexit negotiations. Overall, however, consumers are uncertain about the impact of Brexit on retail and worry about the availability of luxury goods (42%).
A version of this post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday.
As the designer churn continues apace, it’s no surprise to see lots of this week’s coverage surrounding what the future of the industry might look like on that basis, as well as whether this whole see now, buy now concept will work. Read on for an outline of Balmain’s plans, as well as other fashion and tech stories you need to know from the likes of LVMH, H&M, Gap and more. Dare we say ad blocking gets a mention too…