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Westfield to launch AI-powered pop-up stocking trending items

Westfield London is set to launch a pop-up powered by data based on what is trending online, as determined by an artificial intelligence (AI) system.

Every morning, Westfield staff will stock the brick-and-mortar space with 100 items from throughout the mall – across menswear, womenswear and accessories – that the AI has determined to be most popular online that day.

“We know that the UK is shopping online, but we’re also seeing and hearing from consumers that they crave the human factor that shopping in person provides – the ability to touch, feel, try and seek advice, to ensure the products are right for you,” says Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer for Westfield. “The Trending Store provides the best of both worlds via a unique shopping experience, one that we believe represents the way we will all be shopping in the future.”

The pop-up, dubbed The Trending Store, will open from July 3-7. The AI system, which was developed by NextAtlas, a company focused on using the tech to determine emerging trends, chose merchandise for it by tracking 400,000 of the hottest influencers, which the platform refers to as “trend innovators”. The platform then analyzed what these influencers were wearing, filtering out the 100 items that it deems to be most trending on that given day.

The data gathered by NextAtlas is then communicated to the in-house stylist team at Westfield London. The finished range includes pieces from across the price spectrum, from entry-level to premium.

The pop-up also supports Westfield’s humanitarian mission, helping to raise funds to support its long-established charity partner, Save The Children.

The Trending Store pop-up reflects the need for big retailers to adapt to a changing consumer that shops both online and offline. Activations such as this one are potentially effective ways of attracting customers to the store, as the physical retail channel has suffered from falling footfall in recent years.

British department Harvey Nichols, is another example of this. At the end of 2018, it created an installation that also combined online, offline and philanthropic elements in the spirit of the Christmas season. For the experience, a real-life choir assembled in the store whose looks were available to shop via Instagram, with proceeds supporting the Smart Works charity.

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Retail technology

Westfield launches immersive and theatrical VR experience

"Alien Zoo" by Dreamscape and Westfield VR experience
The “Alien Zoo” VR experience by Dreamscape and Westfield

Westfield Century City in Los Angeles has partnered with Dreamscape Immersive Inc to launch a pop-up virtual reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to explore an imaginary world.

The 13-minute “Alien Zoo” experience invites guests to walk aboard a spacecraft, select their own avatars and interact with different creatures from across the universe.

The aim was to combine the thrill of an epic theme park attraction with the awe and wonder of a great film, according to the team. The “extraterrestrial journey”, as it’s referred to as, allows viewers to witness first-hand the galaxy’s most endangered species.

“Walk side by side massive beasts, play with adorable and exotic creatures, and not only fight for survival against the most deadly predator in all the cosmos, but prove that there is still hope for humanity in our exciting, yet unpredictable, universe,” the write-up explains.

“When you think of VR, you tend to be in the world of gamers and high-tech and we try to take the virtual out of virtual reality,” Walter Parkes, Dreamscape co-chairman, said. “So let’s make it as real as possible, make it tactile. All of the animals we’ve created have deep histories. We could actually write a book about what planets they come from. It’s a narrative-rich approach to VR and much more inclined toward our backgrounds. Texture’s everything.”

As malls in America continue to struggle with the advent of e-commerce, large brick-and-mortar retailers are expanding their remits to engage with experience-hungry consumers through new types of environments. Converging retail, entertainment and technology is a primary focus to drive footfall.

“We’re at a time when movies and malls are getting a lot of competition from digital distribution. So one way to counteract that is to offer irreplaceable, unique experiences and that idea was certainly embraced by our studio partners and our retail partners,” said Parkes. “That’s why the malls that are doing well are as much entertainment centers as they are retail centers.”

As he explains, you can’t get anything at a mall that you can’t get online, thus creating environments that offer more is key.

Following the Westfield pop-up, the company plans to take the concept to other markets, envisioning its final version as true VR multiplexes, where different rooms can offer different experiences, much like a cinema.

Dreamscape Immersive has a number of big names backing its vision of VR for entertainment – in December, it closed a $30 million Series B round that included investors from Nickelodeon and VR Sense Solutions Ltd, while companies such as Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox and Westfield Corp are among its initial investor pool. Executives on staff include Parkes, a film producer, and CEO Bruce Vaughn, a Walt Disney Co alumni.