7 Ways in which Technology is Continuing to Change the Retail Experience

A great guest blog post by Dean Ronnie!


 

When the average person thinks of retail, they would be forgiven for thinking online is the be all and end all when it comes to the future. But while online retail is ever growing, bricks and mortar stores aren’t as dead as the average person would believe. By utilising innovative technology in addition with the right retail management software, several retailers are transforming the traditional store into a whole new animal, an animal that other retail outlets can easily evolve into it.

Here we look at some of the technologies they are employing to do this and ideas that could perhaps inspire a new technological direction for your store.

Mannequin beacons

To assist in providing product information to their customers, UK retailer, House of Fraser, have begun utilising beacon technology within the mannequins in their stores.

The idea behind this is when customers with a smartphone and the relevant app, walk within 50 metres of the mannequin, they will be provided with details about the clothes and accessories that the mannequin is wearing thanks to an embedded electronic transmitter. These details will include exactly what the products are, how much they cost, where they can be found in the store and a link to buy them online for customers limited for time.

Launched by UK start-up, Iconeme, these mannequin beacons known as VMBeacons are CE & FCC approved and can transmit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the technology is still in its infancy, pricing details for these bespoke beacons can only be obtained by contacting the start-up directly at this stage.

Beacon Geofencing

As they are relatively cheap and easy to install, beacons are also being used for geofencing within stores. Rather than being used to target customers already in the store like in the previous point, beacon geofencing relates to targeting potential customers who are simply nearby. Utilising the beacons to communicate information to peoples’ mobile devices when they enter a pre-determined area, retailers can use this technology to send special promotions or coupons to those passing by in order to entice them in-store.

In a rather unconventional way, beacon geofencing is being used by The North Face not just to entice customers in store, but to increase brand awareness entirely by communicating information about weather conditions to people as they arrive at hiking trails.

As the technology develops, beacons are available in a number of different configurations including those that are suitable for all-weathers, those that can be customised with your brand and colours and those that can be implemented into displays. Prices of beacons start from just £30.

Virtual rails

Allowing customers to explore a wider product range than can be displayed in-store, Marks and Spencer have recently opened a store in the Kalverstraat district of Amsterdam which features “virtual rail” technology.

Amongst food and a few items of clothing, the store features a 3 x 46″ touchscreen which imitates a real life clothing rail and allows customers to browse through life sized imagery of dresses, trousers and other items of clothing. Using this touch screen the customer can look at each item in detail, including looking at it from several angles and even see it being modelled on the catwalk.

Once the customer has decided on the item(s) they wish to purchase, they can then utilise a touch screen to pay and choose to have them delivered either to an address of their choosing or to the store for in-store collection.

Although a technology currently only being used in Marks and Spencer stores, touchscreen monitors are available to purchase from around £1,500.

Interactive hangers

Utilising the same interactive theme to show clothing being modelled, certain stores in Japan are trialling the use of “interactive hangers”. Equipped with RFID technology, these hangers communicate with a store’s network using radio waves. When a customer takes one of these hangers off of a rail, a screen displaying a video is triggered which shows that particular item of clothing being modelled.

Developed by technology company, Teamlabs, this technology is only currently available in Japan but will soon be making its way worldwide.

Contactless payment

Offering the ultimate in convenience for customers paying for goods, the usage of contactless payment is ever increasing. With technology giants such as Apple now getting on board with their Apple Pay solution, contactless payment looks set to transform the way in which we shop in the traditional store format.

No longer will big queues put off potential customers, nor will they slow down your business and have an impact on customer service. Industry research from P. Dennison’s study “Contactless Payments Merchant Accounts” in 2011 found that contactless transactions are faster than both cash and conventional card transactions – averaging 12.5 seconds, compared to 26.7 seconds for conventional card transactions and 33.7 seconds for cash transactions.

Encouraging customers to purchase using their smartphone will also open up opportunities to utilise further technology in offering loyalty programmes, personalised coupons and location-based marketing.

This technology also opens up the possibilities for more business opportunities. If paying for something just requires a swipe of their phone or even simpler a swipe of their wrist, more and more people will be tempted to make a purchase.

In addition to Apple Pay, contactless payment technology is also available from the likes of Barclaycard, Worldpay, EE and PayPal.

 

Interactive product displays

On the same theme of encouraging customers to make a purchase, retailers such as Kate Spade are utilising interactive product displays to show customers just how their products can be used. These systems use sensors that are activated when an item is lifted from a display table. Once an item is picked up a display built into the table then shows Instagram feeds, ad campaigns and styling tips for the chosen product.

Smart mirrors

While the other technologies mentioned show how items of clothing look on other people, smart mirrors cater for people wishing to see exactly how each outfit will look on them.

These advanced mirrors will record and display 10-second clips of a customer wearing different outfits so they can then refer back and compare each outfit from multiple angles before they then make a purchase. If a customer has a little more time, they can also use the mirror technology to share the clips of the outfits on social media so they can get help from their followers on which to choose.

This smart mirror technology is available from MemoMi Labs Inc.

Dean Ronnie is a keen advocate of technology and the ways in which the latest technological developments are changing the traditional retail environment. Dean works on behalf of Prima Solutions.

Get in Front of More Media – 6 Tips for the Perfect Pitch

Founder and Editor of Couture in the Suburbs, Lindsay Viker, shares her top tips for a perfect pitch.


MediaPitchingTips

Positive media attention is one of the best tools for strengthening your brand image, and getting your product in front of new customers. However, all those who have tried to receive this type of attention organically (meaning, without having to pay to be mentioned), will tell you it’s certainly not easy.

As a fashion journalist for Couture in the Suburbs, I receive numerous press releases and e-mails asking me to feature a designer’s work. There are certain things the designer or PR team can do to make it much more likely that I, or any other reporter for that matter, will choose to feature their brand.


 Below are 6 tips for reaching out to the media.

  1. Do Your Research.

 

First and foremost, you need to know which media outlets to pitch to. Spend time looking for websites, news stations and magazines that cover the type of topic you are looking to pitch. Be sure that their audience is aligned with the aesthetic of your brand.

For example, my website, Couture in the Suburbs, focuses on local fashion. When I receive pitches outside of this realm, I simply ignore them. The off-topic pitch shows me they didn’t spend enough time reviewing my site to know what I actually write about.

A great way to identify whether a media outlet is a good fit for your brand is to start following them on social media and subscribing to their e-mail lists. This will help you understand the type of content they regularly publish. It will also show the magazine, blog, or TV segment that you care enough about their content to follow and interact with them regularly.

I always take more notice when I see a brand comment on my Instagram posts or shout me out on Twitter before I receive an e-mail from them. When their name pops up in my inbox, I already have some familiarity with the brand and am much more likely to open and respond to the e-mail.

  1. Make it Personal.

 

Find an individual, not an entity to send your pitch to and you will greatly increase your chances of getting a response. ALWAYS include the reporter’s name in the e-mail and make the message personal to them (Read: no mass e-mails BCC’ing all the media outlets you want to work with).

 

One great way to personalize the message is to reference a story they covered in the past. This will show the reporter that you follow their work and understand how your pitch aligns with their area of expertise.

 

If you’re having trouble finding a direct e-mail address for the reporter you want to send your pitch to, try reaching out to them on social media. Many websites and TV shows list the reporter’s Twitter handle, so send them a tweet (or a direct message if they already follow you back) asking for the best way to contact them.

 

  1. Be Relevant & Interesting.

 

Great reporters are always looking for new, fresh story topics to interest their audience. They are not looking to promote businesses just for the sake of it.

Frame your pitch in a way that highlights the most interesting and unique thing about your brand.

 

Maybe you have a charity component to your brand or are using new technology to create your product. Call out this unique factor in the subject line of your e-mail. For example, “Fashion Brand Gives Back to Children’s Hospital” or “3D Printed Technology is the Future of Jewelry”.

 

Another way to get media attention is to have a timely announcement. I always read, and follow up on pitches that correlate to other major events that are happening. For example, “Local Fashion Brand Shows in New York During Fashion Week”.

 

The bottom line here is to help the reporter understand why your brand is worth writing about.

TipsforMediaPitch 

  1. Get to the Point.

 

No one likes long e-mails, and even more importantly, no one reads long e-mails. Make your message short and direct and you will have a better shot of the reporter actually processing your pitch.

 

This doesn’t mean that you want to leave out critical information; it just means you need to format that information a little bit differently.

 

  1. Give Access to More Information.

 

Writing a short e-mail, as suggested above, means you can’t possibly include all the information relevant to your pitch. Creating a press kit, which can be as simple as a Dropbox folder with high-resolution photos and brand facts, is a fantastic way to give the reporter access to all the information necessary to write about you.

 

  1. Build a Relationship.

 

Hopefully, the reporter decides to write an amazing story that highlights just how unique and special your brand is. However, even if they decide not do a feature, but responds to your e-mail saying they might be interested at a later date, be sure to THANK THEM for their time.

 

It is absolutely essential to build a strong relationship so that when you have something interesting and buzz worthy, you already have the necessary contacts to distribute that information to the general public.

 

Your goal here is to make strategic connections with individuals who can show your brand in the best light to your target audience. Trust the reporter’s decision on your pitch, and strengthen your ties with them in the process.

 

 

Follow these tips and you are on your way to getting in front of more media, and improving your brand image.

 

Did you find these tips helpful?

Do you have further questions?

Let me know by tweeting me @lindsayviker.

 

Lindsay Viker

Founder & Editor of CoutureintheSuburbs.com

What are marketing tactics for a startup in the fashion industry?

Answer by Syama Meagher:

Often times online fashion brands dont look at the full cycle of how to engage the customer. You need to think about how to get your product in front of the customer, not just through digital strategies. Take a page from the bigger guys who are creating tangible assets to drive their online sales (pop up shops, print ads, printed catalogues). Your customer doesnt just live behind a computer. Who are your biz dev partners? How are you adding value? What are the collaborations you have lined up? Think big and smart. Its far too easy to throw money at a facebook ad, and waste it. Pick your platforms, only choose the ones you can maintain and create conversations (i.e. engage). I'd suggest Instagram and Tumblr. I'd also set aside some cash to pay for bloggers bc unless your product is AH-mazing no one will write about it.

What are marketing tactics for a startup in the fashion industry?

What are the best cities in U.S. major metropolitan areas for renting retail property to launch a boutique (i.e., good combo of high foot…

Answer by Syama Meagher:

Great Question. I agree with Robert Wagner about looking at population density.

Places like Savannah, New Orleans, Rhode Island have been popping up on my radar.

its good to note that good foot traffic in a high income demo generally negates your desire to have reasonable rents. I would look at neighborhoods that are gentrifying and new silicon valley tech businesses that are sprouting up across the country- Colorado comes to mind.

What are the best cities in U.S. major metropolitan areas for renting retail property to launch a boutique (i.e., good combo of high foot…

Why does it seem like XL+ clothes are always the last to sell out?

Answer by Syama Meagher:

There is a market for everything. The high margins they make on the smaller sized goods selling at full price allows them to compensate for non selling larger sized goods. It is also skewed appropriately when buyers are looking to sell for all sizes- often times following the format of XS (1), S (2), M (2), L (1), XL (1). Certainly this depends on the product line and where the brand is distributed. In addition, brands often will consolidate goods to where it is selling most. Meaning XL's will get consolidated across the country to better service that market.

Why does it seem like XL+ clothes are always the last to sell out?

What would I have to do to purchase items at wholesale prices in the UK?

Answer by Syama Meagher:

I would really make sure those products have a high enough perceived value to warrant the price point you will have to charge to get the same margin dollars on a non imported product. $100 retail shirt in the US, $25 cost price, might become a $50 cost price with a $100 retail price.

Once you have decided that the brand value or perceived value is strong enough, then make sure you are looking at all the customs and taxes you will have to pay. Depending on your volume you may want to look at a customs broker.

Set your purchasing price at an exchange rate at the time. You want to be clear on how much you are going to be paying as many retail contract have you pay at net 30 or sometimes 50 down 50 later. You dont want to get screwed here.

What would I have to do to purchase items at wholesale prices in the UK?

5 Ways to Get In Front of Retail Buyers

 

Get In front of brands!

 

Originally Published on Makers Row/Blog

“I’m a former buyer turned buying and brand consultant. I’ve been emailed, visited at work by eager brands, and stalked on social media. Here are 5 tips that will impact how you get noticed by prospective buyers:

1. Email is Cheap: Send something real.

Have great fabric swatches that you are using for F/W? Send a sample over with a personalized note card to the prospective buyer. Include a couple of sketches. This is personal, real and valuable. In essence, it is a pre-lookbook. If you are a new fashion brand its essential to make a great first impression.

2. Speak Up:

Send something out to a buyer? Call and follow up. Leave a message requesting feedback. I can’t say how many times the second or third email actually got my attention. Buyers are extremely busy, so don’t always assume they saw your first email. Also, don’t hard sell your potential partner. If it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. But, they need to tell you that first. How to tell if you’re a good fit before getting the hard rejection? Visit the retail store or check out the e-commerce site. What are the price points and aesthetics of the store? Is your brand positioned at a luxury price point but the retailer offers affordable luxury? Check first. With small retailers across the country that don’t have online shops and aren’t in your immediate market, making the phone call is important. Remember. Both of you are after the same goal: to get the right product, at the right price to the right customer.

“Think about how your brand firsts gets experienced online from your logo, to site navigation, font, photo quality, & brand copy” @MakersRow

3. Time Is Precious:

Your time, their time, everyone’s time. Don’t contact the wrong person, don’t expect them to put you in touch with anyone. More importantly, don’t expect a response if you’re using an outdated email list. Buyer’s change like the seasons, and you need to double-check your lists via LinkedIn. Even calling the receptionist and asking to be transferred to your contact will tell you if they’re still in that position. Remember: the women’s designer is not the same as women’s contemporary, so do your homework.

“Buyer’s change like the seasons. Use @LinkedIn to double-check your contact information.” @ScalingRetail via @MakersRow

4. Share Your News

Did you receive press lately? Was your brand just featured in a popular publication? Which celebrities are wearing your brand? Are you going to be at an upcoming tradeshow? Let the world know. Make sure to email your most recent press kit to potential buyers you met or spoke with. Nothing interesting going on? Don’t make something up.

“Did you receive press lately? Make sure to email your most recent press kit to potential buyers you’re contacting.”@MakersRow

5. Follow but DON’T Stalk

There is a distinct difference between following a buyer on Twitter and friending them on Facebook. Don’t engage on a professional level with someone, on a platform used for personal means. Example: If the buyer you want to reach out to has a personal non-work/industry related Instagram account, i.e. photos of her baby and friends don’t stalk her. If it is focused on fashion and work, then follow and engage away.

“Networking Tip: Don’t engage on a professional level with someone on a platform that they use for personal means” @ScalingRetail @MakersRow

Getting in front of the right buyers is a combination of your brands perceived value + determination + longevity – too many emails + creativity. Perceived value can be a tough one to decipher. Think about how your brand firsts gets experienced online. Your logo, the navigation on your site, even the font, quality of photos and brand copy all add up to your brands perceived value. Perceived brand value can be thought of as everything ranging from your fabric to hangtags to where your products are made. Remember…you can only make so many first impressions! Need help building your pitch and sales strategy? Leave a comment for me below!

“Getting in front of the right buyers is a combination of your brands perceived value + determination + longevity” @ScalingRetail @MakersRow

Syama Meagher, CEO of Scaling Retail, has championed the success of small to medium sized retail and fashion businesses internationally. Her co-authored book “The Fashion Designer’s Guide- CREATING FASHION WEBSITES THAT SELL- Your Step by Step Manual for Ecommerce Success” releases in February. From opening retail stores in New York to launching a brand from Bali, Syama has taken ideas and turned them into scalable and sustainable businesses. Syama has a background working at the merchandising offices at: Barneys New York, Gucci, AHAlife, Ann Taylor and Macy’s. Visit: Scalingretail.com and follow her on Twitter @ScalingRetail