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Fung Group Launches Omnichannel Lab for Retail Experimentation

It’s no secret that consumers are looking for a new kind of retail experience, but Hong Kong-based Fung Group wants to test just which omnichannel techniques and trends will set well with shoppers.

The multinational group of companies, which includes Li & Fung Limited and Global Brands Group, launched a 23,000-square-foot experimentation laboratory in partnership with IBM and brand activation company Pico.

Dubbed Explorium, the new lab is designed to let business see in real time how consumers interact with certain technologies, products and environments.

“Everything we thought we knew about how consumers decide upon what they buy, where they buy, when they buy, how they buy and how they pay is changing,” Fung Group chairman Dr. Victor K. Fung said at the platform’s unveiling.

According to Fung, omnichannel is the future of retail for China and across the globe.

“Chinese consumers are setting shopping trends globally, especially with their avid use of social media. And Shanghai is home, arguably, to China’s most vibrant, tech-savvy consumers. That is why we chose Shanghai as the launch pad for this major Fung Group initiative.”

The lab included technologies like virtual-reality fitting rooms, mirrors that bring images to life and 3-D printing for customized products. Some brands are using Explorium to test their products in the Chinese market and some retailers are using it to try out new store concepts. Consumers who visit can opt to receive mobile offers and rewards from brands they love via social media that are tailored to their location and preferences.

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Fung Group said it has no set predictions about what new business models Explorium might bring, the company is content to observe and learn.

“A key advantage for participating brands and retailers is that, with Explorium, they can experiment, incubate and iterate at high speed while minimizing their cost and risk,” Fung said.

IBM’s role will be to gather and analyze Explorium data and provide tailored insight for retailers testing things there.

Pico provided integrated marketing for Explorium and aided in its planning and execution when it came to branding, marketing and digital media.

The membership-based omnichannel lab already has nearly 12,000 participants, some of whom are Fung Group, IBM and Pico employees and family members, and so far members are spending at average of three hours exploring Explorium.

Children are the platform’s first focus, but in later phases Explorium will test more women’s and men’s apparel and home products.

“Technology is the catalyst empowering consumers. The Internet and mobile communications are disrupting the way consumers behave and, in so doing, providing unique opportunities for retailing to come up with new business models,” Fung said. “Nowhere is this more evident than in China, one of the world’s most exciting, challenging retail markets.”