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Retail technology

CoverGirl’s new tech-enabled flagship focuses on discovery and personalization

Covergirl
CoverGirl

Makeup brand CoverGirl’s new Times Square store in New York is encouraging shoppers to immerse themselves in an experiential playground with tech-enabled experiences that include a virtual greeter and AR glam stations.

The store, which is the first under the brand’s new “I am what I make up” philosophy, is designed to be a shared beauty experience, where consumers are encouraged to discover, try on and express themselves through makeup in several different ways.

“We can’t wait to open our doors to the public and let our fellow CoverGirls in to play and to ‘make up’ what CoverGirl means to them,” says Coty’s Consumer Beauty CMO Ukonwa Ojo. “The CoverGirl flagship represents this incredible moment in beauty – where rich experiences matter most and where true self-expression and experimentation are the only beauty standards.”

Upon entering the store, customers are greeted by Olivia, an AI virtual greeter powered by Google’s Dialogflow that can answer questions, share beauty trends or simply direct customers to their desired products. A try-on station allows shoppers to pick up a lipstick or eyeshadow from a tray and have it automatically overlaid onto their faces via augmented reality mirrors, similar to Coty’s Bourjois boutique that opened in Paris earlier this year; to provide the personalization that consumers crave, another station allows them to customize a lipstick and/or makeup bag; lastly, in-store staff, or CoverGirl BFFs, will be on hand to provide advice, tricks and recommendations.

The store’s design has also been developed with the young beauty consumer in mind, with every corner providing a selfie-ready backdrop that allows shoppers to share their looks and shopping experiences.

Being that the new flagship is at one of the world’s busiest areas for footfall, it will be open daily from 10am until midnight.

Increasingly, beauty brands are deploying augmented reality to further engage with a consumer who is prone for interaction. Beyond Coty’s new Bourjois and CoverGirl stores, this year L’Oréal also announced the introduction of digital beauty assistants that use AR to show consumers looks via video on the NYX app.

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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Comment technology

Press may have pushed “tech” angle of new H&M store, but less than a week since launch, nothing seems to be working

H&M tech store, Times Square
H&M’s deserted digital catwalk in its new Times Square store

I’ve been looking forward to visiting the new H&M store in Times Square since it opened last Thursday off the back of the tech innovation it’s supposed to house. As per the headlines that ran:

I finally got there last night, but unfortunately was sorely disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, from the moment you walk in the space feels fantastic; it’s high energy and it looks beautiful. Three floors and 42,000 square feet of great design, only enhanced by the huge volume of fluorescent signage throughout. But the technology story that’s dominated the press, well… none of it was working.

In the first instance, there are mannequins with screens in front of their faces supposed to play videos, display photos and showcase special deals. Screens that on a busy Tuesday night the week before Thanksgiving in the US, were switched off (as pictured below). All of them.

Then there’s the fitting room checkouts. Not a high tech initiative, but certainly a forward thinking one to help bust queues in a store that’s on one of the most trafficked corners of New York City – 42nd Street and Broadway. Again, closed. And the store was busy.

H&M tech store, Times Square
The blank digital screens in H&M’s new Times Square store

It was the mezzanine level with its dedicated DJ booth supposed to “spin music continuously”, and digitally-enabled runway, that I was most looking forward to. There, shoppers should be able to pose for a series of photos in pieces from the H&M line, and then see themselves displayed on one of the other LED screens around the store (there are 7,000 square feet of LED screens in total, including two 30-by-20-foot ones on the outside of the building).

As per WWD: “Shoppers choose an outfit in the nearby dressing rooms, enter their e-mail address into a computer and await the signal: ‘Walk’ on a red flashing sign. Each ‘model’ is told what time his/her image will be on view on the screens inside and out. Images sent to shoppers’ e-mail accounts can be used on social media.”

When I arrived on that level at about 5.30pm last night, there was no one to be found, not even the DJ (as the top picture shows). A lone sales associate clearing up behind the desk said she hadn’t seen anyone on the catwalk all day so she presumed they weren’t using it. I asked another on the ground floor who said she wasn’t sure but assumed they just had it turned off for the day, and another who said it was broken so she thought they weren’t able to use it. None of them were 100% confident about what was going on.

The computer next to the runway also displayed an error message regarding potential damage to its battery life if left plugged in (as pictured below). I was in the store for about an hour and nothing changed, though I didn’t overly expect it to as the story was the same on Monday night when a colleague of mine also visited.

The disappointment of all this for me is nothing to do with the fact a few glitches mean things aren’t working right now, but more that it’s such a sign of what retailers are achieving at present across the board – aiming too high and delivering too low. No wonder there’s constant push back from senior management about ROI.

There’s a huge amount happening with in-store technology, and a lot of it really exciting stuff that garners an enormous amount of press coverage, but does it really mean anything at all if it doesn’t work merely a few days after the big launch party when most of the journalists have walked away? A classic tale of smoke and mirrors.

I’ve had other experiences recently where I know something is working in a department store but it’s supposed to be a guided experience and without a sales associate on hand to demonstrate it to me I can’t participate in it. That’s essentially the same issue; an attempt at tech integration failed at the first hurdle, that being enabling the consumer to even use it.

There are a lot of arguments about the pros and cons of retail technology these days – from making it feel seamless to the shopper rather than gimmicky and unrelated to the persona of the brand, to ensuring staff are rightly trained to use and demo it – but I would argue the most important thing of all, and I think you’ll agree, is that there needs to be a commitment toward it working for longer than just on opening night.

H&M tech store, Times Square
The empty mezzanine level of H&M’s new Times Square store
H&M tech store, Times Square
H&M’s empty DJ booth in its new Times Square store
H&M tech store, Times Square
An error message on the digital runway screens of H&M’s new Times Square store
H&M tech store, Times Square
An error message on the digital runway screens of H&M’s new Times Square store
H&M tech store, Times Square
A blank digital screen in H&M’s new Times Square store
H&M tech store, Times Square
H&M’s new Times Square store
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technology Uncategorized

Digital billboards in Times Square, New York

American Eagle and Forever 21’s digital billboards in New York might have been written about numerous times before, but seeing them firsthand is quite another experience, so I couldn’t help but get my camera out.

Forever 21's interactive billboard at Times Square

Forever 21’s is the epitome of interactive. Using high-tech surveillance equipment and computer vision technology, it plays on the notion of vanity (who doesn’t like to see themselves on a 61-foot screen) to form a real-time image of the crowd.

A super-sized virtual model can be seen taking a Polaroid photo of onlookers before showing it to them once developed; picking up an individual and either turning him into a frog by a kiss or dropping him into a shopping bag; or placing a magnifying glass over certain groups.

The campaign, created by interactive agency Space150, even picks up on the yellow of the Forever 21 bag, to specifically pick out those that have shopped in the store. Bearing in mind consumers look at billboards for an average of six seconds normally, this one definitely has people captured for a couple of minutes at a time – and that’s a whole year after it first launched.

Check out the video, below:

Meanwhile, American Eagle’s similarly taps into the “15 seconds of fame” idea. It’s been about for a little while longer (first trialled in November 2009), but continues to fare well. Anyone who buys something in store can opt to have both their photo and a message posted to the multiple giant screens, some 25-storeys high, outside.

It all happens within 15 minutes so there’s not too much hanging around in the meantime, but while you wait, there’s also conveniently a rotation of all the current campaign shots too.

Check out the below slideshow of examples:

And a couple of other related things I loved…

The fashion ads from Pepsi for its new skinny can, also in Times Square:

Clinique’s digital vending machines at JFK airport:

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Uncategorized

Polyvore winners to feature on American Eagle billboard

A winning collage by lauren.y.b

The four winners of user-generated style site Polyvore’s Spring Break Style Contest are set to have their winning collages featured on the American Eagle billboard in Times Square, New York, from March 11-18.

Over 13,000 entires were submitted to the competition, a record for Polyvore. Each had to feature American Eagle merchandise.

A total of 40,000 “likes,” 3,000 comments and half a million impressions, followed.

Winners were Lauren.y.b, Kristelle Yokley, StelleM and nperu.

[Mashable]