This is a follow-up to a previous post found here.
So what will stores in the near future do? What will they be like? My next several posts will share my perspective on the future of various retail store types. Let’s start with apparel stores. We all buy clothing either online or at stores, but if you think about real-estate presence, apparel takes up 80% of any traditional mall.
Think for just a minute about the way you manage your clothing needs and the process of sorting, trying on, deciding, buying, organizing and selecting the perfect outfit or combination before leaving the house. What could improve that process? What will make the experience of shopping “in a store” for a shirt, a pair of jeans or a suit an easier, more fulfilling shopping experience?
Today, there remains a large void in that “clothing” lifecycle. But there are some potential solutions and ideas. To improve the shopping experience, we must consider the functional and emotional aspects of the apparel lifecycle. If you are a traditional shopper you probably have a collection of pieces and brands that manifest your style and meet both your emotional and functional needs. Yes, we all have those “I can’t believe I bought this, what was I thinking?” items in our closets, but impulse shopping is another topic for another day.
But generally, every season, a few new pieces get added to the closet as a few old (or gifted) pieces hit the donation pile. You probably have a handful of complete outfits and a very large mental menu of combinations that work for you. Yet, selecting an outfit is a tasking process that requires premeditated thought and, for most, preparation, unless you are the uniform-wearing type.
Part of our attraction to certain brands is based on our affinity to their style, and our identification with the values of that brand. Brands curate product and narrow the choices for us. They simplify the process. Brands should do more, they should be our personal stylists or personal fashion consultants armed with a rich history of what we have purchased from them before.
Scenario #1: Brand stylist
My favorite denim brand has a 3D scan of my body and they know my exact fit. Based on my “style profile”, previous purchases and feedback they can narrow my options down to a few perfect pairs. At the store they can recommend not only the perfect shirt for the pair I am trying on, but also for my most recently purchased pair at home. This information is shared amongst two sister lifestyle brands covering my formal and casual needs completely. Their recommendation engine can select the best product combinations based on what I have already purchased and my personal profile. Today we can expect Amazon to do that, but very few brick and mortar stores are successfully managing all the information they have on their customers.
Scenario #2: The virtual closet.
The concept of cataloging what we own is standard for pictures, music and documents, so why not all our apparel and all the things in our closets? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a virtual version of all our clothes and a “personal library” of all our best combinations, based on occasion, location, weather, mood, etc.? We could then link what we have to any of “my brands”, social media sites or amazon and with the scan of a code to find the perfect complimentary piece at any time. Very soon there will be a digital marker in everything we buy and the catalogue, or library of all things we purchase will commence. Ultimately, in real time as we purchase an item, the digital version will simultaneously be uploaded to our virtual library and sorted out accordingly. Think of it as there the “clothing genome project” where everything ever made will be digitally repurposed to live in our virtual closet.
Scenario #3: The best of both worlds
Once our closets are digitized and our bodies scanned at the fitting rooms, the rest of the shopping experience will begin to evolve. Ideally, we will be able to combine the intelligence, crm data and analytics of the internet with the experiential and emotional triggers that only real physical space and human interaction can provide.
In some ways, this is already happening, take a look at “Hointer”.
This is the first example I have seen of an in-store experience that leverages technology to edit, expedite and improve the shopping experience. Yes, the possibility of the store being aware of your presence is already here, with geo-fencing already your home alarm turns on by itself, with NFC you can pay with your phone (not an iPhone), with face recognition “face deals” you can get a personalized offer as you enter the store…check out this video for more.
The blend of the two environments (digital and physical) is starting, and as a result, expect online retail to get much better at connecting emotionally and developing sensory based experiences as brick and mortar continues to integrate technology and remove the “chore” equation. Ultimately soon, shopping will be more personal, totally personalized with benefits and features we have not dreamed of yet.