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The future of retail is collaboration, says Story’s Rachel Shechtman

If the future of retail could be summed up in one word, it is collaboration, says Story founder and Macy’s brand experience officer Rachel Schechtman. Speaking at a panel chaired by Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette at NRF’s Big Show in New York today, Shechtman outlined how she is translating her successful retail concept to the American company 18 months into the new role, with a key focus on curation and scalability.

Working with such a large legacy retailer comes with a different set of challenges, but for Shechtman, it is important to retain the parameters that she applies to her successful NY-based concept, where its theme and product assortment changes every six weeks. Collaboration for her isn’t ever about simply merchandise, but rather strategic partnerships that become part of the storytelling Story has become known for.

When choosing a partner, she asks three questions: will this partner add authority and authenticity to the category in which they exist? Do they create a product that is relevant to a subset of men, women or children? And lastly, do they like them? The latter might sound simple, but when doing things that are pushing the envelope, it is important to have affinity with who you’re working with, she says.

There is no one-size-fits-all mentality to her approach, however, and the most important litmus test is: are customers receiving an experience the they cannot get on their couch? Focusing on strong staff training and visual merchandising allows the retailer to create a story around the product which will undoubtably lure the customer into the physical space, she says.

Shechtman has been attending the Macy’s university, she says, since beginning her new role, understanding how the brand’s culture and DNA affects the retail experience. Her in-house team is focused on three main strategies in order to translate the success that Story has achieved, but at a much wider scale. Firstly, they are looking at how to show up differently for their customers, presented within a Macy’s environment, both by testing and creating new processes. Secondly, engaging with 300+ colleagues within the organization and allowing them to become co-creators of this new experience in order to make it sustainable and scalable in the long run. Lastly is the important piece of partnerships, and how to maintain that value proposition when working with a company that has millions of social followers and store windows all over the country.

With internet democratisation and customer needs changing, collaboration and learning from what other businesses can offer is the way forward, concludes Shechtman. It’s about always thinking strategically about who you work with, and what the end result means for the customer experience.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

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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.