Deep discounts and promotions may have brought consumers into stores, but touch screens, digital dressing rooms, interactive displays and apps kept them from leaving.
This past year, retailers—large and small—stepped up their technology game. While some innovations were busts, like Amazon’s Fire smartphone equipped with product recognition technology that some feared would bring “showrooming” to a new level (but didn’t), others enchanted shoppers. Rebecca Minkoff’s fashion emporiums became a place where designer threads mingled with RFID tag technology, while Zappos carried their renowned customer service and free delivery into brick-and-mortar with its first physical store.
Here’s a recap of the highs and lows in high-tech retail innovations in 2014.
1. New Rebecca Minkoff Stores Bring Digital Indoors
Merging online with brick-and-mortar, Rebecca Minkoff’s new stores will be equipped with oversized, high definition display screen for customers to use to browse merchandise, view runway footage and select items to try on. Shoppers can be alerted via text message when a fitting room becomes available to them, and once inside they will be able to request additional sizes and assistance by using touch screens imbedded into the mirrors.
2. Zappos’ First Physical Store Pops Up in Vegas
Online footwear giant Zappos.com, in partnership with technology retail logistics startup OrderWithMe, opened its first physical retail store, a 20,000-square-foot, tech-driven pop-up shop housed in the Western Hotel. With more than 3,000 styles offered in the store and thousands more made available via kiosks powered by OrderWithMe’s new technology called ShopWithMe, there is plenty to discover. ShopWithMe hardware and software creates an “endless aisle” for shoppers by giving them the ability to purchase from Zappos’ extended catalog of products while still in the store. Shoppers can select other sizes and color options via the kiosk and have them delivered to their home.
3. Macy’s Bulks Up Its Omnichannel Strategy
Macy’s released an expansive roster of omnichannel initiatives that touches on a number of emerging selling technologies. Among them is Macy’s and Bloomingdales’ early adoption of Apple Pay, which will be available this fall on new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices, and the Apple Watch. The company launched the mobile, contact-less payment technology designed to eliminate the need for physical debit and credit cards, in its stores in October to further simplify the point-of-sale process.
4. Retail Futurist Reveals Current Trends Reshaping the Industry
When it comes to shopping, consumers are after a stimulating, interactive, tailored experience when they shop, and retailers that have any hope of maintaining market share will have to see that they get it. In an interview with Sourcing Journal, the self-described Retail Prophet, Doug Stephens, outlined the current trends taking the sector by storm and offered insight for retailers wondering where to begin.
5. AlvaKids Aims to Remove Guess Work From Shopping Online for Kids
AlvaKids, a new online and app feature by fit experts Alvanon, is designed to make it easier and more accurate for parents to shop for the right children’s clothing—and for retailers to sell their merchandise. Alvanon vice president of research and development Jonathan Wang, said, “What we see is that there are so many brands out there and ones from France label differently from England. Japan labels sizes 1 to 5, while others use centimeters.” He added, “Shopping becomes very complicated. It is very confusing to understand those numbers and we aim to help minimize that confusion.”
6. Tech Leaders Discuss the Future of Fashion Technology
Having revolutionized industrial design, aero and automobile design and architecture, Optitex USA president Yoram Burg said the apparel industry is due reap the benefits of 3D rendering. High-quality 3D rendering, digital printing and virtual fit programs took top billing during a panel discussion MAGIC called “Cool Technology for Fashion Savvy Companies.” The talk, moderated by Will Duncan, Textile and Clothing EVP of [TC]2, featured insight from Burg, SGIA vice president of tech services Johnny Shell, and Tukatech-Styku founder and CEO Ram Sareen.
7. Amazon’s Fire Smartphone Rekindles Showrooming Debate
Amazon’s first smartphone, the Fire, may be the handheld device bargain hunters have been pining for, and consequently, what brick-and-mortars have been dreading. The world’s largest online retailer unveiled the phone, which along with the bells and whistles consumers have come to expect from a $199-priced phone, comes equipped with Firefly, an Amazon-exclusive component that allows users to point their Fire phones at any consumer object in the real world and then browse for it on Amazon.
8. New Target App to Make Shopping a Snap
In Target’s latest effort to build its omnichannel capabilities, the retailer launched a new shopping app called, In a Snap, and is betting on print advertising to help boost its online sales. Compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod, the app enables Target shoppers to flip through magazines, catalogs and print ads, snap an image of a Target product using their device’s camera and then immediately search for that item online or in store. It gets its name from the snapping sound the app makes when it recognizes a product.
9. Macy’s Launches Image Search App
Shopping at Macy’s is a snap—literally. The retailer has rolled out an image-recognition search app, powered by Cortexica and developed by Macy’s Idea Labs Team, which allows mobile users to snap a photo of a garment on their phone and search through thousands of inventory items to find the exact same or similar product available at the department stores. Macy’s Image Search app is compatible with iOS phones, or web users can upload photos and search on their desktop.
10. New Balance, Brandlive Link for Omnichannel Events
Footwear manufacturer New Balance partnered with Brandlive, a real-time online video and social platform, to showcase its latest products through live interactive product demonstrations.