Technology As “Friend”
By Wanda Jankowski, Editor-in-Chief
In today’s consumer-centric retail world that demands retailers find their way to consumers and not vice versa, it might seem that technology and e-commerce are gradually winning the battle for consumer spending over brick-and-mortar stores. Concepts discussed during the 2012 World Retail Congress (WRC), held in September 2012 in London, paint a different picture of what the future of retailing might be like—it’s one of integration and collaboration, rather than an “either/or” contest.
According to Robin Lewis, professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology and editorial director of “The Robin Report” (therobinreport.com), there are two key takeaways from the presentations at the WRC. First, to succeed retailers must operate on all distribution platforms and via technology seamlessly integrate and facilitate all connections and communication between consumers and retail venues, and vice versa.
Second, with all the electronic e-commerce options at everyone’s fingertips, brick-and-mortar stores must provide consumers with compelling reasons to visit. We all know this, but eye-opening are some of the technological advancements Lewis cites that are already at retail and bring something different to the in-store shopping experience:
- In Burberry’s new flagship store in London (shown), runway shows are video-streamed and technology is in place that enables a customer to stand before a screen and download an apparel item onto her body image so she can see how it looks.
- Some stores equip associates with iPads to ease checkout and find items not currently in the store.
- There are devices that allow customers to view apparel on a model and download backstory details on how its crafted and where it’s made.
- The MeAlity body scanner, in Selfridge’s in London as well as in other stores, scans the body and furnishes a chart naming brands that would best fit that shopper.
Rather than viewing technology as the enemy of brick-and-mortar, its applications can serve as “collaborators” in drawing customers into the store.
The home textiles sector might not be as tech-savvy as other luxury or fashion industries, but looking over the fence at the wonders impacting other retail segments clues us into what kinds of tech-friendly experiences may someday trickle down.
For more of Robin Lewis’ observations about the WRC, go to his Oct. 3, 2012, blog titled “My Take On The 2012 World Retail Congress” at therobinreport.com.