Bricks-and-mortar

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - JL FOUND
Image source: John Lewis FOUND

This week has seen some of the UK’s most traditional retail institutions throw their hats into the in-store technology ring. At 131-year-old retailer Jaeger, CIO Cathy McCabe promised a front-to-back IT revolution in stores – including kitting out staff with iPads to enable them to take payments from customers anywhere on the shop floor. Meanwhile in Birmingham, John Lewis will be trialling a new lifestyle store concept called Found. It will curate lifestyle collections across fashion, homeware and technology – aiming to bring a younger, more stylish audience into stores with a targeted lifestyle ‘edit’.

By making in-store technology their chosen driver for change, both retailers are clearly attempting to get beyond gimmicks in favour of bigger profits. But can the latest in-store tech really drive sales? This question (alongside many others) will be posed at our NYC Summit on 28-29 October, where a dedicated panel will debate how we can optimise in-store tech to create retail concepts of the future.

The matter of whether it can be a true revenue driver has been on many minds at bricks-and-mortar stores in the past year. The most famous investors in this space in the luxury fashion market have been big-name brands like Burberry, Kate Spade and Karl Lagerfeld. The latter, for instance, has deployed in-store tech in all its outlets, such as iPad minis integrated into display racks and fitting rooms equipped with fun photobooths – you can even add a Karl-inspired filter and share on social media.

Start-ups getting in on the action include Perch, an experiential media technology that makes physical displays more immersive – in other words, the display table becomes an interactive digital screen. According to Mary Beech, CMO at Kate Spade, there’s a higher sell-through for products on Perch tables. Other brands that have partnered with Perch include Levi’s, Nordstrom and Estee Lauder.

But there’s also evidence that certain customers feel overwhelmed by the presence of too much technology in their real-life shopping trips. While facial recognition tech could be employed to give individuals more age-appropriate beauty recommendations, for instance, 68% of UK shoppers would find that “creepy” (source: RichRelevance). But that’s no reason not to experiment. The future for more easily digestible in-store technology could lie in lifestyle concepts within larger retail institutions, such as John Lewis’s new Found space.

Retailers’ best bet may be to take cues from lifestyle e-tailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos – stores that, in their model for using technology to create a better fit and lower price for customers, have been huge e-commerce successes. Moreover, both brands have now been able to open physical spaces directly informed by the shopping patterns of a younger customer, rather than trying to anticipate their desires with a random selection of technology gimmicks. Either way, in-store technology is a space that’s bound to make for some trial-and-error success stories in the next year.

Book your ticket for the Decoded Fashion NYC Summit here.

Reported by Claire Healy

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