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McKinsey, Mall of America Demonstrate Power of Retail Tech with Interactive Installation

This is not the end of the in-store experience, nor is it the beginning: It’s the future.

As tech-literate consumers gain more buying power, retailers infuse their space with technology that optimizes their shopping experience. On Tuesday at Coterie in New York City, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company presented findings from a partnership with Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., that demonstrates the power of retail technology.

The companies worked together to produce the Modern Retail Collective (MRC), a space within the Mall of America where consumers can interact with different retail technology across several brands, which will rotate every four months. The first iteration launched at the end of September and included jewelry brand Kendra Scott, direct-to-consumer underwear brand ThirdLove, cosmetics company Eleve, and personal care brand Type: A.

This iteration focused on consumer-facing technology with a goal of product discovery. At the MRC, a navigation robot greets customers as they walk in, directs them to certain brands and products, and is ready to provide education on each.

At Kendra Scott’s Color Bar, a digital installation lets shoppers create custom jewelry and “shop by color.” Users start by choosing a colored stone and placing it on a sensor, which reads the color and shows different customization options on a screen. From there, they can choose the jewelry piece, metal type, design and more.

Near field communication (NFC) tags, which provide customers with an app-less way of learning more about a specific product, are also located throughout the MRC. Shoppers simply wave their phone over a sensor and review whatever content the tag was programmed to display on their phone. In some cases, this could be product information, in others, it could be reviews or videos.

ThirdLove’s fit finder technology asks customers a series of questions related to their current bra size and pain points to determine the right fit. Shoppers complete the survey on a digital screen, which displays size and product recommendations according to their input.

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A “Magic Mirror” is also included in the MRC, which allows users to try on different earrings and send themselves a selfie. The tool harnesses the power of augmented reality to provide customers with a range of jewelry to visualize—and the results spoke for themselves.

According to McKinsey data, 45 percent of Magic Mirror selfie-takers at the Mall of America MRC installation emailed photos to themselves.

“An average person walking into one of our stores might try on three sets of earrings, but if they were doing it on the Magic Mirror, they would try on five,” panelist Jim Dunlap, chief information officer at Kendra Scott, said. “Similarly, they could spend more time at the color bar. Customers can do a lot of shopping [with these tools] in a very short amount of time.”

Overall, the technologies boosted visitor in-store browsing time: Those who used one or two technologies spent 1.5-2 times longer than those who didn’t, McKinsey reported. Not only did they spend more time in-store, but the time spent was also more significant.

“Most people who go to stores nowadays are on their phones,” McKinsey senior partner Jennifer Schmidt, said. “They just want to walk around or they’re there to pick something up and walk out.”

Engagement aside, these technologies can also help brands make strategic changes. After capturing results from the Color Bar, Kendra Scott painted a wall in one of its nearby stores to reflect the most popular color choice in that region.

While MRC welcomes brands with technology of their own, the aim with the installation is to work with retailers to co-create tech offerings in the future.

MRC also plans to include tech that provides value on the retailer side, as brands are clamoring for inventory reporting, data aggregation and cryptocurrency exchange solutions. Tools like a customer path, which provides a heat map of customers’ journeys throughout the store, would be valuable for retailers looking for a more optimal store layout.

Similarly, data linking is in growing demand. Dunlap noted that it’s of the biggest focuses in retail tech right now. While there are many opportunities for capturing customer data, the challenge is integrating it and increasing its accessibility. Essentially, data is virtually useless if it can’t be organized and applied accordingly.

When the brands switch over in April, MRC will consist of four brands under the mom, baby and home categories.