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The Customer Makes the Difference

In the new world of retail, customers are not only deciding retailers’ success, they are becoming part of it. Not only do they want to be served well, they want to be in the driver’s seat and be part of the creation of the product. They believe that the easiest way to fully understand them is just to ask. Retail is no longer just “customer-facing”; it is about inventing tomorrow together with the customers.

So what if the next retail revolution is the customer?

Customer driven retail reminds us that retail is about making products available that will make customers lives better and happier. Several cases featured in Retail Innovations 11 demonstrate this key driver of innovation while showcasing aspects of another key driver: technology.

Frank & Oak, a fashion retailer for men which began as a pure-play retailer in Canada, uses its store layout, retail real-estate location strategy, community and technology to satisfy and engage loyal customers.

–As part of its real-estate strategy, Frank & Oak invited customers to vote on where its next stores should open. Votes were cast through the purchase of gift cards and based on feedback, the retailer opened two locations, one in Boston and one in Chicago.

–Frank & Oak’s ambassador program, a private network of customers across North America, helps ensure innovation within the merchandise mix by enabling its online community to provide feedback on existing products and new merchandise.

–The Toronto flagship store is a multi-use space showcasing products and engaging customers. The space also serves as a bar offering whiskey tastings for loyal customers on occasion.

In India, Creyate is a platform that functions as a 3D design studio, enabling customers to use advanced technology to create, personalize and customize garments that fit them perfectly. Creyate extends beyond the traditional techniques of customization and personalization, allowing customers to create their own garments on iMacs, using 3D technology to create a rendering of the item where it can be customized with the individual’s choices. Creyate customers can access their designs online and in-store.

–Customers at Creyate enjoy a QR code based shopping experience. QR codes contain fabric choices and design options, which appear on screen. Stores are also equipped with a virtual wall mirror / digital screen integrating Kinect-based, augmented reality, enabling customers to try clothing on virtually, making the experience of customization feel “real”.

–Designs are mixed and matched at Creyate, providing a curated collection of fabric and design details, allowing for 100,000 unique products.

–Specialists help customers choose designs that suit them and take measurements so the product is a perfect fit. They also tailor recommendations and facilitate a unique and memorable customer experience. They consult on specific garments and complete wardrobe solutions and are also available for home visits.

While technology remains a major driver for innovation as retailers seek to understand the customer, it must be usefully applied to serve a consumer need. An understanding of how people live, dream and shop is at the heart of customer driven innovation.


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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