McMillanDoolittle logo


Technology and Fashion, Syncing up at Fashion Week

Just in time for week two of NYFW, Google and rewardStyle’s consumer facing platform, announced a new partnership which will make street style shoppable. Rachel Arthur for Forbes outlined the details of what this would entail for tb1he consumer, explaining how when searching for clothing via the search engine, a “carousel will show up at the top of Google results showcasing images… based on relevant content, or metadata, found in the database.” Selecting an image then launches a complete shopping experience allowing consumers to purchase from looks found on social media in real time, via the search engine.

While this announcement is certainly intriguing, it is far from being the only example of how technology and retail are syncing up this Fashion Week and it’s likely that some of what emerges this month will have a lasting effect on the wider world of retail. Specifically, we should expect to see more and more retailers embracing technology and the ways in which it can be incorporated into the customer experience to encourage interaction and to allow retail businesses to reach a larger set of consumers.

Rebecca Minkoff, for instance, integrated tech into her show on Saturday and expanded the audience beyond the lucky 350 or so guests there in person, by creating a 360 live experience for those of us at home. Additionally, the designer partnered with the app Zeekit, to allow users to upload an image of themselves and virtually “try on” the clothes in the new line, scaled to their size (TechCrunch). Historically, fashion has been anything but fast, requiring shoppersb2 to wait months before runway styles hit stores, yet now, innovations in virtual reality satisfy the consumer craving for instant gratification in a personally unique way.

Tech and fashion also teamed up at a pair of Samsung sponsored shows put on by New York Fashion Week’s event production company FTL Moda. The shows featured Samsung’s “magic mirror” displays transforming a normal mirror into a wonderland for consumers and a valuable tool for retailers. While smart mirrors aren’t new, Samsung’s ML55E mirror combines the “power of digital signage with the visual clarity of a standard mirror” by embedding LCD screen layers into the glass. They encourage a dynamic shopping experience; retaining the traditional functionality of a mirror while simultaneously introducing an element of shock and awe. For the retailer, having the ability to highlight certain products, show product color variations and recommend items complementary to what the shopper is trying on without requiring staff intervention, could potentially drive incremental sales and more efficient use of personnel.

As Fashion Week moves around the world, we should continue to see technology on display as much as design; and then hopefully in stores and devices before we are on to the next big thing.


Showcase at Sears?

Here’s a clever way to more effectively use excess big box store space:  Develop a destination section that brings together an exclusive set of unique, fashionable apparel and accessory brands that were previously unavailable in the market:  a great idea.  Surprisingly, Sears announced yesterday that they are doing just that.   In five East Coast Sears stores, the company will carve out a 10,000 sq. ft. “Showcase” section highlighting 10 brands from Latin America and Europe.   Participating brands range from familiar labels like Mango, that recently abandoned their shop-in-shop venture with JCPenney, to brands very new to the U.S. like Ilusión and Fiorentina – two intimates labels from Mexico.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Sears Holdings/PR Newswire

Sears Holdings/PR Newswire

This all seems compelling but there are reasons to be skeptical.  The assortment is far from cohesive as Showcase will offer everything from bright Latin fashion at a low price point, to expensive and functional Danish menswear label, Jack & Jones .  It’s unclear what target customer group this is meant to attract.

Raising awareness about Showcase and convincing customers to cross the threshold into a Sears store to check it out will be another challenge.  Once they are there who will be selling these products?  Hopefully Sears will learn from JCPenney’s missteps and will have sales people and selling tools that are equipped for the job – ready to help customers understand the fit and features of these unique products.

Great retailing today requires more than outstanding products – it’s delivered through a combination of great product along with a differentiated brand position, great execution and a customer experience that connects with the target customer – and that’s after you get the customer to enter your store either physically or digitally.

Good luck Sears – We hope it is a winner – it’s been a long time since there’s been a success story to celebrate coming out of Hofmann Estates.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Technology Makes The Difference

Although technology is only a facilitator, many innovative concepts could not exist without the amazing technological progress that we are experiencing.  As we have seen over the last few years, many of the most disruptive ideas in retail are “technology-intensive,” directed at providing increased access to product, an augmented experience, greater convenience, or more of anything that generates excitement.

As an enabling tool, technology allows customers to bring things together, have more choice, more access and more information than ever before. Customers are experiencing new solutions such as seamless check out, touchscreens which access detailed product information, sharing on social media, and many others.

Several cases featured in Retail Innovations 11 demonstrate this key driver of innovation.

Fashion icon Rebecca Minkoff ‘s partnered with eBay to develop the technological wizardry behind the NY Soho flagship store’s special technology and digital features:

  • A large multi-screen digital wall dominates the front entry. Three panels on the touchscreen enable customers to perform a variety of tasks or access detailed information. The product, Look Book, offers customers an opportunity to take photos and post on social media, reserve a product for the dressing room or even order a free beverage. Customers are invited to enter their mobile number so they may be contacted inside the dressing room.
  • Touchscreens in the dressing room. Via touchscreen, lighting can be adjusted to showcase multiple environments in which a woman would like to see herself. RFID tags on products are detected when a visitor enters a dressing room; the items pop up on a mirror with suggested accessories and the option to summon a different size. Sales associates check customers out on iPads, allowing sales to close in the dressing room, facilitating impulse buys. A stylist can be called for assistance, different sizes can be requested, and further product information can be called up for an item under consideration.

Rebecca Minkoff

In London, Google opened its first physical location in 2015 to allow customers to seamlessly experience Google’s online world in a physical setting. Customers can play, experiment and learn about the company’s physical products and online applications.

  • A large screen called a “portal” allows users to fly around the world using Google Earth. Budding artists can paint their own Google logo to share on social media on a digital “Doodle Wall”, and a “Chromecast Pod” invites customers to watch Google Play movies and YouTube. Every service that Google offers can be experienced in store.
  • Customers can touch, feel and experiment with the full range of Google products, including Android-based phones, tablets and chromecast, for those who want to try before they buy.
  • Classes and events are hosted regularly in store, including tutorials about online security, as well as how to use Google devices. Potential educational tools are tested by teachers at open-house events, and experts are always present to provide help and support for all of Google’s devices and services.

Google map

As retailers look to understand the connected store, experiments like the Rebecca Minkoff flagship and The Google Shop are an intriguing way to gauge what works and what doesn’t. These technology-driven stores are helping retailers connect to customers via an enhanced shopping experience.


Burberry Lights Up Michigan Avenue

Burberry’s newest flagship, clad with its signature tartan check glowing façade, has been open on Michigan Avenue for two months now and Chicagoans, and tourists alike, are excited about its grand arrival. Standing at five stories high and approximately 16,800 square feet, 633 N. Michigan Avenue boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of Burberry apparel, cosmetics, footwear, handbags, small leather goods and accessories available in the US.

Why would Burberry choose Chicago for its glittering store? Chief Creative Director, Christopher Bailey, explained his appreciation for Chicago – “It’s a very artistic city, yet it’s also a real business city. It’s an imposing city, yet one with a lot of green space and an attention to outdoor sculpture. Chicago feels like a place where there’s an admiration for something that has a long heritage, and that of course appeals to us.” In addition to Burberry’s statement flagship, Michigan Avenue’s NikeTown also received a much needed face lift in 2012, adding to the allure and excitement of the Magnificent Mile.

As we walked effortlessly throughout the labyrinth of intimate rooms, we felt that we were in someone’s home rather than in a flagship store. This level of intimacy is critical in gaining the type of trust that a customer needs in order to purchase a $38,000 crocodile tote bag. Perhaps the most notable room houses the iconic trench coat. Burberry excels at the art of showcasing a single product in multiple iterations, while still maintaining a clear focus. There were no less than forty different styles of the trench, yet the intimate setting created a sense of calmness among the feathers, studs and bows. Indeed, even the small leather goods and accessories were displayed in merchandised boxes that resembled a personalized gift rather than a display.

Chicago’s Burberry is a far cry from the brand’s mid 1800′s roots, complete with digital touch screens and live footage from runway shows playing on large screens throughout the store. To keep their chic children occupied, the children’s section features four touch screen drawing stations to keep them busy while their parents are free to buy, buy, buy.

Each associate is armed with his or her own iPad complete with the ability to report item availability for any store. This advancement has significantly reduced the amount of time that associates spend in the backroom, as well as customer wait time. Indeed, the iPad also serves as a mobile checkout counter for increased speed and convenience. We spoke with an associate about his new iPad and he raved about his improved ability to provide personalized service by being able to email clients photos of new products at anytime and respond without being locked to a stationary computer.

We hope that Burberry will light (literally) the fire under other retailers on Michigan Avenue and around the world to be creative and play to their own brand’s iconic strengths.