From interactive mirrors that show you wearing the latest trends, to apps that allow you to pop items in a virtual basket while you walk around a shop; the retail industry is becoming a hot-bed for testing out the latest interactive technology and it’s got me excited.
For the last few years, we’ve been used to brands introducing new tech into their shops. Gadgets like screens on walls showing off the latest collections or iPad and tablet hot points where you can browse online catalogues, have become the norm in the high street but in 2014 things are going super digital. Now it’s all about merging the concept of online shopping with in-store shopping to bring a new virtual retail experience, which pushes the digital boundaries.
One store that’s already embracing the digital era is luxury fashion house Burberry. Their Regent Street store is the perfect example of the emergence between online and in-store shopping with digital mirrors and audio visuals that have been created to complement their website and merge the two together giving you the experience of walking through their website as you walk through their doors. Burberry’s technology-forward store creates a completely new experience for their customers with digital rain showers and fitting rooms that show images of an item on the catwalk when held up to the mirrors.
Speaking to Vogue at the time of the opening in 2012, Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, said, “Burberry Regent Street brings our digital world to life in a physical space for the first time, where customers can experience every face of the brand through immersive multimedia content exactly as they do online.”
This famous fashion house is not the only store creating innovative digital hubs. The smaller independent brands are also taking note and transforming their stores into interactive spaces. YRStore in London is one of those stores. Launched as a pop up store by Luma, this forward-thinking t-shirt brand gives the power to the shoppers, inviting them to use the large interactive screens placed on their walls to design their own t-shirts. They can choose from a variety of graffiti style prints or upload their own images to create their own designs.
It was originally born as a pop up store on London’s famous Carnaby Street, but can now be found in Topshop and Topman on Oxford Street. It was the first store ever to feature an interactive digital t-shirt wall and a live all-over print bar which creates the bespoke t-shirts in minutes using the latest printing technology. Their Carnaby pop up store also had a digital mirror which allowed customers to try on their designs interactively to see what they looked like, before they were sent to the printer, giving a new meaning to the old saying “try before you buy”.
What’s exciting about this concept is that it shows that with the introduction of different technologies in stores, there are more opportunities for the customers to get involved with the creative process. And the fact that high street giants Topshop and Topman are now featuring the pop up in their flagship store, means it something they definitely think is exciting and innovative.
The idea of the digital mirror or the interactive fitting room is one that you’ll have to get used to as it was recently revealed that they’ll be hitting the high street this summer. On May 22, Microsoft revealed a new Cher-from-Clueless-style digital wardrobe in The Microsoft Apartment at Covent Garden. The new tech allows you to virtually pick out your outfit and, apparently, it will even be available to buy to use in your own home by 2016.
Rahul Sood, from Microsoft, told the Daily Mail, “The relationship between design and technology is becoming ever more important when applied to modern fashion start-ups. This system takes depth data from the moving Kinect camera, in real time, to create the highest quality, geometrically accurate 3D models.”
Of course, if there’s one piece of technology that’s going to have an input into the path that the industry is now taking, it’s going to be social media. Just like in-store technology, social media is also a driving force in the new digital revolution.
Whilst the technology in-store is changing the way we perceive fashion and shopping, social media and smartphone technologies are influencing what we buy and how we buy it. Just take a look at the online magazine The Debrief. It’s #changingroomselfie feature involves their Fashion Editor Pandora Sykes heading out to the high street to take some snaps of herself trying on the latest trends. It’s a new and innovative way to showcase the latest trends and it’s a reaction to the power of Instagram and how it’s influencing our fashion choices.
You only have to take a look at London Fashion Week to see the influence that social media can have on fashion and buying. Digitally savvy brands use the biggest event in the British fashion calendar to connect directly with their audience. Like Tophsop, who set up the world’s first 360° virtual world at last season’s event. Shoppers at their flagship store on Oxford Street were treated to an interactive and immersive experience which featured live feeds from the catwalk and backstage, allowing them to feel like they are physically at their show.
The revolution can be seen in smartphones too with the creation of a number of new e-commerce apps. Now e-commerce and social media are obviously not new concepts and the idea of taking a picture of yourself in your new outfit and uploading it to your Instagram is the normal thing to do in 2014, but what is happening is that the customer’s engagement with brands is changing and therefore their shopping journey is evolving. Apps like Shopcade which is the first shoppable magazine which allows celebrities, bloggers and fashion lovers to upload their own images and browse those of others before picking out items that take their fancy and buying them there and then.
Nathalie Gaveau, the founder of Shopcade, says, “The future of retail is clearly digital. Just in clothing, more than 13% of sales are already happening online in the US and e-commerce is the only retail growth segment. On Shopcade we see trends happening very quickly, before they hit magazines or the high street. I think mobile will play a big role in payments and services around stores.”
Other e-commerce apps like the recently launched Qubit are also changing the shopping landscape. In a recent Deloitte study, it said that 50% of all in-store sales are to be influenced by digital services by the end of 2014 and therefore e-commerce apps like Qubit have completely redeveloped themselves to offer brands in depth knowledge about their customers’ likes, dislikes, purchase history and feedback. Brands are taking note, with Topshop already signing up hoping to create sophisticated personalisation for their shoppers with items personally picked out for them.
Victoria McGrath, who runs the successful blog In The Frow, as well as lecturing in Digital Fashion at Manchester University, believes that e-commerce apps are so popular because they allow you to shop quickly, conveniently and ubiquitously. “Apps allow the user to access concise information in an enjoyable and user-friendly format,” She explains. “More users are shopping via tablets now, therefore a retailer’s mobile presence has to be effective. If the app increases ease-of-use and inspires hedonic motivations, then the user is likely to stay longer, be more satisfied and potentially purchase the products they view. It creates a positive consumer experience for the user and benefits the brand in the process. Retail is 24/7 from wherever we are.”
So what’s the driving force behind all of these digital changes? Obviously, you have to take into account the development of new technologies and gadgets, but a huge part of this is down to you; the shopper, the reader and the digital loving techy. Because you want to be able to shop whenever and wherever, using whatever gadget you have to hand, brands have to change the way they advertise and market their clothes. The Deloitte study also revealed that 36% of consumers would like to access product information by scanning a barcode with their mobile device. This is the reason why there are new pop ups offering you interactive shopping, like the world’s first pop up mall Boxpark London, or new apps which allow you to interactively shop, while in-store.
The introduction of these new technologies and gadgets in-store allow us to interact with the brand and the clothes, trying them on without the effort of physically changing and essentially having an enjoyable experience experimenting with their exciting new tech toys. Whereas the social media and smartphone apps give readers and shoppers the power of influence and opinion. If we don’t like it, we won’t Instagram it and the brand misses out.
So whether you fancy having a go at being Cher from Clueless for the day with a digital wardrobe, or you’re more of the creative type who loves the idea of creating and printing your own tee in-store, there’s going to be plenty of new gadgets changing the face of the retail industry for you to try and I’m pretty excited to see what they can come up with in the next few years…