The digital and the physical world is merging, no doubt about it. Not only are we starting to expect digital features or alternatives in a lot of our everyday interactions, but we are also starting to expect more and more from our physical objects and environments.
And we’re going to see a lot of this in the fashion and retail segment looking forward. An article in Vouge Business suggests that the advances in machine learning, mixed reality technologies and adaptable and reactive materials, together will change our perceptions of digital versus physical. Forecasting agency The Future Laboratory recently even coined a term for it, ”Programmable reality” which means the growing ability for objects to assume digital attributes. This is expected to cater to a customer who expect everything around them to be as personalized and responsive as online is.
So what’s going on in this field then?
Well; Nike and Puma have both developed shoes that adjust the fit to the wearer’s preferences. Meanwhile Reebok has made the PureMove Bra which contains fluids that solidifies at higher velocity, basically offering better support when you pick up the pace during workouts.
Meanwhile Italian furniture company Natuzzi will install Holo Lens VR-sets it their stores offering the full product range to customers, and not just what fits the floor. Others use the virtual and augmented features to create experiences, like H&M did in October at the New York preview of the H&M Moschino collab, where visitors could see a handbag appearing to melt and gold accessories and undergarments appearing to float, all through the lens of Magic Leap One glasses.
And then there’s of course the digital clothing, which I have already adressed in recent posts, here and here. While this is far from mainstream yet of course, several brands have actually started to offer 3D renders of clothing on their sites to offer the customer a way to examine build and texture of the products online.
Eventually we will all have a ”digital twin” or ”data double” like Lil’ Miquela, the photo realistic avatar model, The Future Laboratory predicts.
Personally, i can’t wait.
How to serve a customer that want the convenience of online shopping while still wanting the human touch of the offline experience? That is the number one question for brick and mortar stores these days.
According to The Current Daily, London’s Westfield shopping mall just made an attempt to steer in that direction with its AI powered pop-up store. AI provides data on what’s currently trending online – and every morning staff will stock the physical pop-up store with those items. The idea is to give customers the opportunity to experience the items live and really find out if they are right for them. The Trending Store, as it is called, will open on July 3.
Meanwhile overseas, American department stores Kohl’s and Nordstrom are adapting to new consumer behavior by offering services and not just products. Kohl’s have partnered up with Amazon to allow customers to return products purchased online, in their physical store. Nordstrom on their hand have opened several smaller Local stores where they provide online-order pickup, gift wrapping and other services while not carrying any inventory, Digiday reports.
What will retail become in the future? Retail industry leaders such as H&M and Guess will gather on January 23rd to discuss this in Hong Kong, at this year’s edition of the Retail Cutting Edge conference. The conference will revolve around the four themes retail for the next decade, blockchain in retail, global change pain points and AR and VR. Within these themes they will explore for instance how blockchain can be used to prove product authenticity, how the demand for sustainability changes the way brands interact with customers and how AR and VR can make the transition from gimmicky to mainstream in the retail space. Read more at https://live.insideretail.hk/.
”People born in 1995 and onwards, do not want to buy stuff for the sake of owning them.”
”Saving money is going to become the new black and people won’t be as lavish with money in the next ten years (as today).”
These are the words of Jarno Vanhatapio, founder and CEO of online retailer NA-KD, who spoke at the Breakit Retail Tech 2018 in Stockholm yesterday. Although he implied that NA-KD might be having something up their sleeve to meet this demand, he also seemed slightly worried.
And I think he has a point concerning future consumer behaviour. But I wouldn’t describe this scenario as something that will afflict retail, rather than a great opportunity to grasp. If shopping is about to become totally uncool, be the first to tap into this, to change the direction and be a positive force. The corporations of the future will most likely have to take a whole new level of responsibility for what they sell and how much, anyway, so this is a great time to look into the all the ideas that are already out there within FashionTech and Retail Tech.
What is the alternative to buying stuff for the sake of owning them? Renting, for instance. There is no rule that prevents companies who sells products, to also have a rental service.
What would be a mistake though, is to interpret peoples wish to spend less, as a signal to offer more cheap stuff to buy. That’s the last thing this world needs.
Jarno Vanhatapio from NA-KD with moderator Paulina Modlitba at Breakit Retail Tech 2018.
Photo Cred: Anna Hedlund, Stil & Teknik
The gap between digital and physical is an ongoing problem for consumers today. However, a lot of efforts are being made to bridge this gap, and now H&M is attempting one. The clothing giant recently launched a new function in their shopping app, The In-store Mode. Using that, customers kan receive storage status for specific products and also get information on what sizes are available in what stores.
Another important feature is the visual search tool, where customers can upload a photo of any given item, to see if H&M have this product or something simliar.
Screenshot from H&M IN-store Mode promo video.
There’s apparently a gap between what customers want from retailers, and what retailers plan to give them. At least according to a research report made by Swedish payment solution company Klarna, and based on research from 50 retail decision makers and 2 000 shoppers. The report shows that the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality solutions retailers want to invest in, would actually be rejected by 4 in 5 shoppers.
But does that mean retailers are completely wrong about investing in shopping related tech? Not necessarily.
We have to take into account the fact that a lot of these technologies are still in very early stages, as I have adressed here and here in the past couple of days. They are new to most consumers and not always that easy and smooth to use either. Tech like VR for instance, requires certain equipment that is still quite expensive. Of course a lot of consumers are going to reject anything that just seems tricky to use.
However, things change fast.
Expensive tech tends to get cheaper, hard to use solutions tend to get more user friendly over time.
So what do the consumers actually want then, according to this research? Well, most of them think online shopping is more convenient, but agree that brick and mortar stores offer a human touch that can’t be recreated online. About one fifth of them are positive to both VR and AR solutions such as smart mirrors/changing rooms and using VR headsets.
But on top of the shoppers list is simply to find the right fit. A task that is probably harder than ever for consumers with different brands having different sizing systems.
There’s a window of opportunity here: But it needs to be in a way that shoppers find accessible.
American retail corporation Walmart recently filed two patents, suggesting they will launch a Virtual Reality shopping experience sometime in the future, The Current Daily reports. The patent was accompanied with a detailed plan of a virtual showroom where customers, with the help of sensor-enabled gloves, could browse and experience products and thereby actually to feel what they are like.
So, is VR the way to go in retail? Well, there is definitely a lot of talk about it.
Walmart already acquired VR startup Spatialand in February. Meanwhile, internet giants Alibaba and Amazon respectively, have both launched their own VR experiences. Last year, Alibaba launched the retail experience Single’s Day at department store Macy’s, while Amazon recently set up 10 VR kiosks in India to promote a shopping event.
The question is, what’s in it for the consumer?
Apart from the potentially cool experience, it still remains a problem that VR headsets are very expensive at the same time as they get old very fast, because of the rapid evolvement of the VR tech.
The pro’s and con’s of this tech and its place in VR is actually the topic of discussion in the first episode of The Current Debate, a new feature on The Current Innovator’s podcast, by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur. Listen to the episode here.