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Walmart’s Sam’s Club focuses on connected innovation in new store

Augmented reality in the Sam's Club Now app
Augmented reality on the Sam’s Club Now app

Walmart-owned member’s-only retailer, Sam’s Club, is set to open a new retail concept where it will be trialling innovative technologies including mandatory mobile checkout and AR-enabled packaging.

The space, which will be based in Dallas, Texas, will be the retailer’s innovation epicenter and act as part technology lab, part store.

The retailer’s mobile app will act as the central hub for the experience, with existing Scan & Go technology acting as the only way to shop the space, called Sam’s Club Now. Additional technologies will then be added and refined gradually.

Customers using Scan & Go can scan items to add them to the app’s shopping cart and upon leaving the store, a member of staff will scan for a QR code to complete the purchase.

They can also scan selected packaging to bring up more information on particular items, such as provenance, via augmented reality.

Sam’s Club Now
Scan & Go on the Sam’s Club Now app

Navigating the store will also become more seamless, as customers can search via voice for a particular item, and a map will lead them to the correct shopfloor location. The retailer forecasts that in the future this will be updated with beacon technology, which will allow members to receive a personalized map upon entering the store that will show them an optimized route for their shopping journey.

Additional features include a one-hour pickup of items ordered via the app, as well as electronic shelf labels that instantly update prices. In the future, the store also aims to optimize inventory and layout of shopping space by integrating 700 cameras in the club.

An integral part of the new retail format, however, will be its focus on retail staff. Associates are now known as Member Hosts, which is meant to better describe their new focus on improving customer service. “Eliminating friction doesn’t mean replacing exceptional member service with a digital experience,” said John Furner, Sam’s Club president and CEO. “We know our members expect both.”

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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Hollister targets Gen Z via documentary series on AwesomenessTV

Hollister's This is Summer series on AwesomenessTV
Hollister’s This is Summer series on AwesomenessTV

US teen retailer Hollister is targeting its Gen Z customer base with a new docuseries via AwesomenessTV’s YouTube channel.

The duo have teamed up to create 24 episodes – launching May 20 – following a group of seven high school juniors and seniors in San Francisco. In “This is Summer”, as the series is called, the teenagers are seen travelling, playing music, meeting friends, and exploring ‘what’s next?’.

Each episode is 8-10 minutes in length, and shot and optimised for mobile viewing.

“At Hollister, we aim to create rich brand experiences for our teen customer. Awesomeness has incredible reach with Gen Z offering Hollister a great opportunity to engage with customers in a new and authentic way,” said Kristin Scott, brand president of Hollister Co. “We are confident that our content will resonate with our customers and create additional brand relevancy across the teen market.”

The integrated campaign will also see Hollister and AwesomenessTV release songs and music videos inspired by the show, featuring original and cover songs from the cast and Awesomeness talent. The soundtrack will be available to stream on Spotify and will play in Hollister stores later this year.

Unsurprisingly, all of the cast will be dressed in Hollister, with the looks promoted via the brand’s social channels throughout.

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Melissa Shoes launches interactive in-store social hubs to gain customer insights

The M-ND Matter display at Melissa Shoes in Orlando
The M-ND Matter display at Melissa Shoes in Orlando

Brazilian footwear brand Melissa Shoes is launching interactive experiences in two of its US locations in a bid to drive engagement and gain customer insights.

Teaming up with social experiential technology company, M-ND, the retailer will introduce digital displays in both Orlando and Miami, this week. The M-ND Matter displays allow shoppers to explore and share seasonal lookbooks, upload and print branded social media photos, and access special deals, giveaways and loyalty rewards.

“We’re always exploring new innovations that extend the in-store experience to digital channels,” said Michele Levy CEO of Ilhabela Holdings, the exclusive distributor of Melissa Shoes in the US.

“M-ND is unique in that it introduces a new interactive element to the in-store shopping experience – encouraging customers to engage with our digital lookbooks and tell the world about the shoes they love over social media – while simultaneously generating widespread word of mouth. Our goal is to learn from the insights we’ll gain about customer preferences, and put those to use to continually improve our loyal customers’ experiences.”

The M-ND Matter display at Melissa Shoes in Miami
The M-ND Matter display at Melissa Shoes in Miami

The aim is to then use that data around in-store customer preferences, social media influence and behaviour (the displays provide the brand with direct access to profile data, based on customer permission). The team suggests that such a steady stream of engagement analytics will help inform current and future business planning around styles. They will also use this data for remarketing.

The initiative is attached to social media otherwise with the hashtag #melissashoesusa and a geotag of the store’s location. By printing any pictures taken, the user gets access to discount coupons and Melissa Shoes tote bags. They also get entered into a contest to win free membership to the exclusive Melissa Plus Club loyalty program for VIP customers, which usually costs $50.

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Kohl’s and the Chewbacca Facebook Live video: where’s the line?

chewbacca video

If you’ve spent anytime on Facebook over the past few days it’s more than likely you’ll have stumbled across the video of a woman in the US trying on a Chewbacca mask.

Her infectious laughter has now made this Facebook Live’s most-ever watched recording with over 100m views, and counting.

Essentially an unboxing video, she just happens to mention at the beginning that she got it from department store Kohl’s, before sharing the fact that this mask is a birthday present to herself and not going to be for her kids.

Kohl’s jumped on that idea sending Candace Payne and her family several more masks so they could all enjoy wearing them, as well as a stack of further Star Wars merchandise and a $2,500 Kohl’s gift card. The nature of the response (planned with its social agency, Huge), as well as its speed, has won the retailer props around the country and across social media.

“We don’t want you to have to share your Chewbacca mask, so we ‘confinsctated’ masks for everybody,” the Kohl’s rep said in the video of the drop-off, in reference to her confusion in the initial clip about how to pronounce “confiscated”. That clip, called “The Happiest Chewbacca” has got 29m views too. The mask has also since flown off Kohl’s shelves around the country.

The question is, where’s the line with such brand integration? Kohl’s got lucky with this one, to be fair. Payne could have opened the item and never mentioned the retailer’s name. She could (likely) have even bought it from somewhere else. There’s no denying however that the store did a great job of quickly reacting in a positive way that benefitted the family further, thanking them for being loyal shoppers, rather than just taking to social media to post a basic response of their own.

The fact it had the wherewithal to do something about it when the opportunity presented itself should alone be celebrated. But dig a little deeper on social, and a few responses were of course a touch cynical – ranging from eye rolling at the fact Kohl’s did anything at all, to wishing to never have to work for an agency that did such uncreative campaigns, not to mention suggesting that the PR’ing of the initiative was what felt particularly forced.

While speed is probably what made this work – grabbing the moment and beating any competitors to it – others suggested that what it did left a nasty brand-feel to an otherwise very fun and joyful thing. Payne and her family seem pretty happy about it, but there’s a slight layer of awkwardness over so much gifting felt in the Kohl’s clip too.

In spite of that, there’s no denying that the Chewbacca story is everywhere for this particular moment in time, and the fact it’s with the Kohl’s name wholeheartedly attached to it means that team is no doubt patting itself neatly on the back. Wouldn’t you? We’d love to hear some of your thoughts as industry insiders on the matter, do share in the comments below…

chewbacca kohls

Editor's pick technology

The future of retail: Beyond stories told, to stories experienced


If you’d visited a mall housing a J.C. Penney store over the holidays, you may have been welcomed by a virtual reality experience that took shoppers on an immersive ride to the North Pole.

Created with marketing and technology agency Narrative, the “Twas The Flight Before Christmas” initiative was in place in four malls (one each in New York, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia), in a bid to grab consumer attention during the busiest shopping period of the year. It consisted of an Oculus Rift-based campaign where individual viewers could interact with reindeers and snowmen, as well as Santa himself, while a large screen was also set up for the rest of the audience drifting through the mall to enjoy.

Head over to Forbes to read my interview with Tricia Clarke-Stone, CEO of Narrative, on the reasoning behind this immersive tech experience and how it was designed to drive footfall into store and traffic to the checkouts.

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Digital divide as millennials prepare to make it a mobile Christmas


A new day dawns and we get a whole new set of figures about the Holiday shopping season, as well as another insight into just how strong m-commerce is becoming – especially for the young.

This time it’s Discover’s Annual Holiday Survey. And its headline story? Well, three stories actually: Firstly, US consumers expect to spend more this year after a wobble in 2014 when they cut back; secondly, it’s the young who are increasing their spend the most; and finally, those young shoppers prefer to spend via their smartphones.

So, now for the numbers:

  • Consumers plan to spend 3% more this year at $927 and while that’s still less than just two years ago, it easily beats the $730 they planned to spend for Holiday 2010 when the global downturn was still in full swing and confidence was rock bottom.
  • As many as 43% of millennials (aged 18 to 34) expect to spend more this year than last, compared to only 22% of shoppers aged 35-plus.
  • All age groups plan to spend similar amounts but the way they’ll spend differs a lot. Millennials are expected to outpace non-millennials more than two-to-one when it comes to shopping on mobile devices.
  • As many as 73% of millennials surveyed say they will use a smartphone or tablet for Holiday shopping, compared to 32% of non-millennials. Similarly, 52% of millennials say they’ll do most of their holiday shopping online, compared to 42% of non-millennials.
  • When it comes to mobile wallets, 36% of millennials surveyed currently use that technology, compared to 15% of non-millennials.
  • Consumers are split when asked what type of shopping they plan to do most this year, with 45% planning to shop in-store and 46% shopping online.
  • Whether they go to physical stores or digital ones, they’ll be lured by discounts (57%), convenience (19%) and customer service (13%) as the most important factors.

Check out the infographic below:


This post first appeared on, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

technology Uncategorized

Nordstrom uses Xbox’s Kinect for interactive windows

US department store Nordstrom has integrated Microsoft’s Kinect technology into the windows of its flagship Seattle store.

The Xbox accessory has been used to enable shoppers passing by to “write with light” on the white backdrop of the display simply by moving their hands.

“With the help of Kinect’s infrared technology and their technical genius, our teams created a seamlessly interactive display that anyone can ‘paint’ on using just the motion of their hands in front of the glass,” Nordstrom posted on its blog.

The Kinect controller is reportedly hidden underneath a Dolce & Gabbana bag.

The interactive windows, which run until today, April 11, follow on from the store’s Spring 2011 Designer Catalog, a partnership with Glen Luchford and Ruben Toledo which also saw experiments in writing with light.

According to AllThingsD, Kinect for Xbox has also been used to create the world’s best shadow puppet and to operate a computer like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

See the Nordstrom windows in action below:


Coach calls for memories in online Mother’s Day campaign

Coach has launched an interactive online campaign in the build up to Mother’s Day in the US.

“Mother’s Day Stories: You, Your Mom & Coach” encourages consumers to share their Coach-related mother-daughter memories through and Facebook.

“Our heritage, your legacy,” runs the tagline.

“We hear so many passionate stories from our customers on the store level, that we wanted to take this opportunity to invite them to engage in our brand message for Mother’s Day and share their Coach memories with us online,” a spokesperson told WWD.

The campaign launches with stories from key fashion insiders including Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton, accessories director at Glamour magazine; Eva Chen, beauty director at Teen Vogue; and Lauren Sherman of

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