Editor’s Note: Stephanie Chan is a freelancer who writes for Renegade and contributes weekly to art & culture magazine Beautiful/Decay.
With online sales up 17% and physical retail down 11%, it’s no wonder retailers large and small are increasingly living online. An alternative to simply shuttering the windows, though, is to experiment with new technologies to integrate the showroom, the storefront, and the web.
in November, fashion and tech entrepreneurs and experts gathered at the Decoded Fashion New York Summit to discuss integrating technology, fashion and the retail experience — like the partnerships between retailers including Rebecca Minkoff, Nordstrom and eBay.
According to eBay Inc., the Rebecca Minkoff partnership marks the company’s continuing expansion into the physical marketplace and not simply a “one-off” deal.
The company has filed several patents for the new technology, and according to head of Innovation and New Ventures Steve Yankovich, “This is not a pilot for us. This is a thing we’re going to scale.”
Retailers already have startup Revel Systems to help with point of sale technologies, but eBay is hoping for a deeper integration with the retail experience.
In the past, eBay has released a transaction “heat map” following Thanksgiving, which shows online buyer-seller activity in a real world context.
The new high-tech store Minkoff launched in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood aims to capitalize on that kind of big data knowhow and bring the convenience and personalization of online shopping to the brick and mortar space. It’s an extension of work eBay has done with other retailers, like Kate Spade.
Minkoff and her co-founder (and brother), company chief executive Uri Minkoff explained their thinking and the advantages of integrating technology with fashion in their new store.
“We began over a year ago to think about what we wanted our result to be, and knowing how technology savvy our girl is and has become, it was sort of a need that we have technology be there,” Minkoff said. “But … how do we dress it beautifully and how do we make it feel seamless and not something that’s so in your face but that has everything that you hadn’t thought of?”
The centerpiece of their wired storefront is an interactive mirror that enables a customer to select items as though shopping online.
Recognizing the increasing role mobile is playing in retail, Minkoff decided to integrate the smartphone into the showroom experience. The customer can enter her phone number and then walk away to enjoy a drink while a store associate curates their personalized fitting room.
Once that customer receives a text alert, she enters a fitting room, equipped with another interactive mirror that allows her to summon the associate for new sizes and items — like designer-specified recommendations based on her selections.
“If you’re looking at a leather jacket, [and] Rebecca wants you to have a certain handbag with that or a certain pair of leather pants, then those will be also there and you can choose your sizes,” Uri said. “You basically have full control over all the inventory in the store.”
A customer can also save her fitting room session. It’s another function translated from online shopping — specifically the online shopping cart. The amount of data gleaned from this kind of real-world tracking has implications not just for the costumer, but for the designer as well.
Minkoff isn’t the only designer to experiment with technology in stores.
At the Stella McCartney store in Palo Alto, Calif., shoppers can browse and buy from her kids, lingerie and adidas lines through a large touch screen display on the shop floor.
It goes beyond just the boutique scene: An Ugg store in D.C.-area mall Tysons Galleria now enables customers to browse touch screen catalogs and check out using their phone instead of a cash register. In fact, the entire Tyson Corner Center mall is attempting to go online with a designated smartphone app, virtual concierge services, and other functions.