Here are my top picks for pioneers embracing new forms of technology at retail, to differentiate themselves among digitally savvy target audiences. In so doing, they’re better meeting consumer needs such as product customization, or quality and speed of service and payment. Below are 7 standouts and how their experimentation with retail tech is helping them achieve their strategic goals.
Rebecca Minkoff Store In Soho, NYC
Strategic Objective: Provide a fun, differentiated, interactive experience for customers and help them better and more easily accessorize outfits.
Rebecca Minkoff partnered with E-Bay to create an interactive, connected retail store, combining the best of retail with e-commerce for a unique and technologically advanced shopping experience. Customers can order tea, espresso or water to sip while they shop by selecting their preference and entering in their phone number on the connected wall, similar to large-scale computer touchscreen in which customers can swipe and view all product in-store, look up color and size availability in a desired product, request a sales associate, and try on product via the mirror function. The interactive dressing rooms identify each item a customer brings in through a sensor that recognizes a code from an RFID tag attached to each garment or accessory. The dressing room mirrors are equipped with four different light settings enabling customers to view their look at different times of day dependent upon the event they are shopping for. Customers can call for a sales associate in their dressing room without having to leave, requesting another size or color of an item and given a prompt update with how many minuets it will take for the sales associate to accommodate their request. Customers can view suggested products selected by Rebecca Minkoff to pair with the item they have opted to try on, often increasing the number of items a customer will bring into the dressing room and potentially purchase. If customers want to remember the items they tried on, they can save their session by entering in their information and reference it at a later time. Customers can easily check out with PayPal when purchasing an item if desired. The experience is exciting, state-of-the-art and highly buzz-worthy, creating increased brand awareness and a cutting edge image for the Rebecca Minkoff brand.
AT&T Store Chicago
Strategic Objectives: Showcase AT&T’s new technology, position the company as cutting edge and a life-enhancing brand.
AT&T’s flagship store on Michigan, Avenue in Chicago, is filled with innovative technology, like this internet enabled car that can be instructed to “hold calls” and provide car diagnostics and trip information. The store also sells phone accessories that can be customized with photos from users’ photo libraries. An interactive street window with Mother’s Day flowers became animated when passersby tweeted and entered a special hash tag. Interactive exhibits provide information about the history of phone technology. By tracking which parts visitors interacted with most, AT&T can continuously adjust and improve the exhibit’s content.
Tesco – Korea and the U.K.
Strategic Objective: Make shopping for staples as quick & easy as possible, with the added convenience of delivery when customers want and need it.
To accomplish their goal of growing sales in a way that limits investment in new real estate and goes beyond online, Tesco chose an ingenious solution: offering 2-dimensional stores in high traffic locations, like subways in Korea, or airports in the U.K., so people can shop with their phones, snap item QR codes, and have delivery timed for just after they arrive home after work (Korea) or from a trip (The U.K.). In the U.K. Tesco created digital video screens at airports so travellers can have groceries at their homes when they return from trips so they won’t have to face empty fridges. In both cases Tesco took advantage of down time, when customers have no choice but to wait. It’s brilliant from a marketing standpoint because the 2D “stores” are effectively huge ads, viewed in environments with little competitive clutter. Customers may also be more likely to view the “whole shelf” when shopping this way, and may purchase more than in physical or online stores where they tend to go directly to their usual items.
Les Nouveaux Ateliers – France & Belgium
Strategic Objective: Give customers the best possible fit for their custom made clothes, so they get the exact look they want.
Les Nouveaux Ateliers is a small chain of boutiques in France and Belgium, where men can have suits made to order with the fit, fabrics and color combinations of their choice. While that aspect is not at all new, the way the custom fit is achieved is relatively new. A body scanner in each shop takes 200 different, precise measurements of their body, with more accuracy than tailors can take, and as a result, the fit is about as exact as you can get.
Havaianas at Bloomingdales & Simple Human at Bed Bath & Beyond
Strategic Objectives: Use store windows to demo products & engage consumers to come inside. In Havianas’ case, to also communicate customization possibilities.
SimpleHuman is a garbage can humans don’t need to touch to throw their trash away. Simply wave your hand in front, and the lid pops open. The company created an interactive window with Bed Bath & Beyond that consumers could use even when the store was closed. By pressing a button in the window, passersby could activate the lid-opening motion. It was fun and far more engaging than a normal window display.
Haviana also implemented a window activation program, in this case with Bloomingdales in NYC. With a smartphone, customers could select and color-coordinat the sole and upper thong portion of their flip-flops and selected a charm for the part between the toes. This activation was surprising, encouraged customer creativity, and communicated Haviana’s color range, patterns and customizability.
Strategic Objectives: Improve order accuracy and reducing wait times for customers
Panera Bread is rolling out customer ordering systems with approximately 8 tablets per store. Customers can also place orders by phone, online, or through an app that lets them specify when they want to pick up the order. Less time is wasted in line to order so more time can be spent relaxing at the table, talking to friends, communicating on mobile devices, or doing work. The kiosks also reduce order inaccuracies, which Panera claims is 1 in 10 (vs. the industry average of 1 in 7), for a sizable chain-wide cost saving. Cashiers replaced by the tablets, are reportedly being redeployed to deliver the food.
Public House Gastropub
Strategic Objective: Use tech to customize and enhance the experience, make each visit more fun and buzz-worthy, and increase awareness and repeat visits
At the high tech bar, Public House Gastropub in Chicago, each table has its own beer on tap and a table PC that shows how much has been poured and the tab as it accumulates. Guests can pour as much as they like and even mix brews. It’s unique and saves guests the need to wait for servers to come take their beer order, serve it, and then handle the bill. As a result, customers probably order more beer than they otherwise might.
New technology at retail is it can make consumers lives better, more fun, or more productive in different ways. It can positively differentiate establishments that offer the technology, often reducing costs, and encouraging trade-up to larger purchase commitments. Consumers can get a quicker and better understanding of the complete product or service range, features, and functionality; faster service and more time to spend doing what they really want to be doing; and greater precision in ordering and customization. In many cases, these early tech applications are not turnkey solutions. Rather, firms often work with suppliers to come up with customized ways the tech can meet their customers’ needs. It requires visionaries within firms to imagine the types of tech that can make sense, to find appropriate tech providers, and then to collaborate with them. Resourceful tech providers brainstorm business uses for their new capabilities, to affordably offer B-to-B customers a competitive advantage. There are more examples of how tech is being incorporated into products and services to differentiate brands, retailers and hospitality providers in Catalyzing Innovation, the “living book” I constantly update with the latest innovations, through app-like notifications.