As the latest fashion stores are increasingly being set up as showrooms and shopping temples, brand article manufacturers are finding new ways to connect with their clientele via all their senses. The ultimate shopping experience is taking on a new dimension – enabled by technology.
By extending the experience to the digital world, fashion retailers are engaging their customers in new ways to connect them with the brand and the store. Brands that realise the importance of the digital experience early on are set to become the trendsetters for the entire retail industry.
Bathed in digital
Brands always have to offer new and engaging experiences to their customers, and this is especially true for fashion brands. Luxury labels are among the early adopters when it comes to the digitalisation of the store. Their generous resources not only allow for the use of quality materials from the first moment on when they begin construction of their stores, but they can also invest in the latest technologies to create a unique experience. Introducing high tech tools, such as interactive mirrors, audio-visual projection surfaces as well as replacing shelves with online terminals are just a few examples that can create a ‘wow’ effect.
Gone are the days of crammed clothing racks with 10 different sizes of the same item. Instead, the store of the future places emphasis on pure and spacious presentation with few articles, focusing on additional digital elements to create a new experience, providing additional product information in a more engaging way on larger than life video screens.
Theatre, entertainment, surprise and above all increasing the time spent in store are the biggest motivators for introducing the most cutting-edge digital experience.
Smartphones as digital magnets
Personalisation, as a way of reaching out to brand-conscious customers via their smartphones works outstandingly well in the high priced fashion industry. This digital link to customers is ‘open’ 24/7, capitalising on the possibilities provided by beacons, online coupons, mobile payment as well as digital customer cards that offer personalised deals matched to the individual’s shopping history. This highly digital experience allows brands to communicate with customers one-on-one, bringing them closer to the ultimate goal of truly understanding their customers’ needs.
Smartphones offer new possibilities to act as digital magnets and pull customers into the store by offering experiences tailored to their specific interests – such as inviting a few selected people to an exclusive preview of the latest collection. Smartphones also provide a great channel to offer discounts and draw attention to end-of-season sales.
High fashion retailers are experimenting with connecting their customers on smartphones to the digital experience they offer in-store. One great example was when Burberry invited their customers to a “digital shower”. When the selected customers arrived to the store at a pre-agreed time, they were welcomed by cascading movements on a screen, synchronised like a rain shower. Digital tricks like this create a unique and long lasting impression while stimulating customers to purchase.
The power of real-time information
Sales teams now connected with headphones and equipped with tablets, are experiencing the emergence of a completely digital store as well. New technologies allow them to provide a much better customer service. As the daily operation of a store becomes more streamlined, the sales team has time freed up to spend it on the most important part of their job – helping customers.
Administrative activities like manually taking inventory or receiving merchandise have become automated. With this, salespeople can focus on getting equipped with a wealth of information on all products. Through the availability of digital tools to help them stay informed on everything in the store, the digitally outfitted salesperson significantly contributes to a better shopping experience and as such is a key success factor in the digital store strategy.
It’s possible to have all articles in the store, in the stockroom, in other stores as well as in the main warehouse visible to the sales professionals in real-time, allowing them to provide information to customer instantly about any specific article. Availability, sizes and accessories – everything is quickly checkable by the salesperson using tablets, eliminating the need to leave a customer alone while finding the required information elsewhere.
A streamlined operation like never before
The digitalisation of stores also moves further backstage. Real-time transparency for all articles, for example, based on RFID-based tagging, not only provides accurate inventory information but also provides insight into the ageing structure of articles and allows for more rapid merchandise receipt (even with closed boxes). In addition, articles can be distributed among stores based on real-time demand to maximise sales.
Real-time analysis in the store shows decision-makers precisely where certain products – such as a skirt in larger sizes – are selling better compared to other stores, in real-time. This is key information, as a general size structure for distribution covering a wide range of geographic locations does not correspond to real-world shopping behaviour. Having the ability to actively manage all stores centrally and to distribute merchandise in a targeted way to the point of sale (POS) based on demand, is the next level in the evolution of the digital store. This allows a whole new level of stock optimisation, freeing stores and warehouses from the burden of maintaining expensive minimal stock levels and lowering the chances of lost margins if the slower selling items don’t get shifted to outlet stores.
Creative technology and business intelligence
Setting up the store of the future is a visually exciting challenge. Digital technology in stores takes the shopping experience to a new dimension, providing an infinitely more engaging experience for the customers. It creates new ways to improve the entire operation of a fashion retailer – from offering a real-time view of merchandise availability, optimising click and collect, to supporting sales personnel on the floor, all the while streamlining all in-store processes in the background. In the centre of all this lies the key function of real-time article transparency, enabling the analysis and business intelligence needed to make informed decisions in order to create and manage the store of the future.
By Uwe Hennig, CEO of Detego