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Retail technology

Selected opens tech-enabled store in Beijing

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. 


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Editor's pick Retail technology

Walmart “IRL” concept investigates the future of retail through AI

Walmart is investigating the future of retail with the launch of the Intelligent Retail Lab (or “IRL”), a concept store where AI will be playing a major role at delivering convenience and relevancy.

For this concept launch, led by Walmart’s tech incubator Store N8, the retailer transformed one of its busiest locations, in Levittown, New York, into a 50,000 sq ft space where features such as intelligence-enabled cameras and interactive displays aim to enhance customer experience.

“The scope of what we can do operationally is so exciting,” says Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL. “Technology enables us to understand so much more – in real time – about our business. When you combine all the information we’re gathering in IRL with Walmart’s 50-plus years of expertise in running stores, you can create really powerful experiences that improve the lives of both our customers and associates.”

IRL is set up to gather information about what is happening inside the store, and how consumers are behaving, through a variety of sensors, cameras and processors, all of which are connected through a powerful data processing center.

The initial focus is on product inventory and availability, says Hanrahan. In this instance, an example sees a combination of cameras and analytics that will automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to an internal app when a shelf is empty, alerting staff of the need for restocking. Other applications will look at practical solutions that keep the store running smoothly, such as making sure shopping carts are available and registers are open.

This is because at this initial phase the main focus will be on data-gathering and learning about the technology and its potentials and pitfalls, rather than implementing it across operations in haste. “You can’t be overly enamored with the shiny object element of AI,” added Hanrahan. “There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer.”

Adding an element of science fiction to the whole experience, customers will be able to glimpse through a glass wall at the store’s large data center, which will process 1.6tb of data per second – which can be compared to downloading three year’s worth of music (27,000 hours) each second. They can also become better informed about the features being tested in store through information stations scattered throughout. Lastly, an AI-enabled wall adds an element of play by imitating shopper movements as they walk by.

The Data Center inside Walmart’s IRL store

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. 

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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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Campaigns mobile

Kids retailer Gymboree brings clothes to life with AR

Gymboree “Made You Smile”

US childrenswear brand Gymboree has developed “Made You Smile”, an app that activates an interactive layer of augmented reality and brings to life its graphic t-shirts.

Once parents have unlocked the app’s AR feature on their smartphones, children can interact with the functionality by playing with different brushes and colours atop the graphics.

The app also features a ‘smile generator’ which allows customers to create emoji faces that adapt to facial expressions as well as decorate photos with digital stickers.

The final feature is triggered when parents enter select newly-refurbished Gymboree stores across the country, where they are notified that they can enter a draw to win a range of prizes.

“We have spent the past year building the team and laying the foundation to meet the expectations of the modern parent and to begin providing a relevant experience in today’s retail environment,” says Daniel Griesemer, president and CEO of Gymboree. “We have taken the time to learn exactly what parents want and kids are looking for and have used these learnings to create the products and experiences that will resonate.”

The app is part of a larger campaign that aims to communicate the complete overhaul of the San Francisco-based brand as it fights to bounce back after filing for bankruptcy in 2017. In order to stay relevant, it is aiming to reposition itself and better reflect the values of Millennial parents and their tech-savvy children. This includes launching a range of digital initiatives and partnerships, as well as several new in-store features.

The mindset of reflecting customers’ values is further emphasized by a video campaign in which children lip sync to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, targeting parents who most likely grew up listening to the song – thus adding an element of nostalgia.