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At Macy’s, Physical and Online Retail Share Tactics

How does a brand that’s firmly rooted in traditions like the Thanksgiving Day parade and the Christmas favorite Miracle on 34th Street thrive in 2019? For Macy’s, the tactic will be blending the best of its off-line experience with new online tools.

One key example of the approach is the way the retailer is translating a hallmark of its brick-and-mortar department stores. “Our brand has a rich history of inspiring customers with our famous front windows,” said Jill Ramsey, Macy’s chief product and digital revenue officer. “[The app] is our front window now.”

Speaking at the ShopTalk retail and e-commerce convention in Las Vegas Sunday evening, Ramsey, along with Rachel Shechtman, Macy’s brand experience officer, shared more ways Macy’s is using e-commerce tactics and digital integrations to stay relevant to every customer.

This year, it seems, will be all about the store app for Macy’s, as Ramsey highlighted the ever-expanding portfolio of features in its interface. The current suite of digital tools includes a mobile wallet, in-store wayfinding, style quizzes and inspirational assets.

Along with curated editorial content, the app also gives customers access to ideas from Macy’s Style Crew, a social selling platform that incentivizes Macy’s employees to become micro-influencers with shoppable social media posts. By curating content rooted in the product expertise of its employees, Ramsey said, Macy’s generates more authority for its recommendations while also fostering brand loyalty.

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Other features of the app that will increase in functionality and scale in 2019 are voice shopping, the ability to chat with a dedicated stylist, and augmented reality tools that will allow consumers to virtually “try on” clothing and makeup in real time. Macy’s already deploys virtual reality tools in the furniture departments of more than 100 stores, but the AR capabilities within the app will be usable both at home and in-store.

The Macy’s team isn’t just rethinking its approach to digital shopping. Shechtman, who founded Story, a retail concept in New York City that changes its entire layout and assortment every six to eight weeks, is charged with bringing more excitement and engagement to the department store chain. Each new iteration of the store is curated and themed, like a magazine, and the Story team creates all-new marketing materials, displays and in-store visuals to match.

Last year, Story created a pop-up “transactional learning lab” within the Macy’s Herald Square location, fully designing and merchandising the space within nine days. Shechtman said Macy’s hopes to use it as a testing ground for new approaches to working with emerging brands. Macy’s 600 storefronts are radically different from working within 2,000 square feet in downtown Manhattan, Shechtman said, but the company hopes to put strategies from Story’s playbook to work in making its physical retail spaces feel as lively and fresh as its upgraded online presence.

To that end, this summer 100 Macy’s locations will be treated to an expanded version of the Peanuts takeover that first landed at Story last year. The beloved cartoon characters will be available on special edition pieces that are part of the Peanuts Global Artist Collective, which celebrates the classic comic strip through modern designs from artists like Kenny Scharf, Nina Chanel Abney, Rob Pruitt. Story brought the artwork to life through collaborations with hot brands like Away for luggage, K-WAY for windbreakers, Champion for sweatshirts and Stance for socks. Similarly, at Macy’s, shoppers will find a unisex collection of products for adults and children, including denim jackets, T-shirts, hoodies, hats, water bottles and skateboards.