With online and social media platforms taking over the world of retail, are brick ‘n’ mortar stores on their way out? Well, yes, and no. In order to thrive in the current retail market, particularly in the area of fashion, brands need to make some sort of statement to stand out from the crowd. And they’re leaning in on technology to do it.
More than 3,800 retail closures were expected for 2018, according to a recent Business Insider report. That included brands like Walgreens and Toys R Us, plus Gap.
Part of the trouble is that your shopping experience has been firmly placed at the feet of the Millennial generation. Lots of studies are being undertaken to find out how they shop, what they are willing to spend on, and how to get them into stores.
The Milllenial Effect
A report from Lexington Law found that “94% of Millennials use coupons and have a preference towards digital formats; The Millennial population is projected to spend US$1.4 trillion shopping each year by 2020; Millennials make 54% of purchases online; 63% of Millennials complete transactions on their smartphones; and 60% of Millennials prefer to purchase generic brands over name brands”.
These are all issues that brands are scrambling to get a foothold on this generation, as their current customers age, opt out of shopping altogether, and eventually… pass on.
So, this is where technology has started making a major impact in retail outlets. Brands as diverse as Burberry and Uniqlo are using technology to help their physical outlets remain relevant in this new world.
The AI Experience Should Be On Your Radar
Burberry has employed a combination of shop-the-runway offerings from its seasonal shows, iPads for ordering in its actual stores, and RFID tags on the in-store products which tell customers how the products were produced.
Uniqlo uses technology, including AI (Artificial Intelligence) in its production chain. There’s a ‘magic mirror’ in-store, to help it serve customers. The mirror is a collaboration with Sharp and a UK tech firm called Holition. The feature shows you the various colours an item is available in, without you having to try on each shade.
Online megabrand Yoox, which recently bought up Net-A-Porter, is also AI-smart. It’s plugged into ‘predictive’ trends based on social media platforms. It used AI to develop its newest in-house fashion brand, based on its enormous amount of data gathered from its online customers. (It’s got approximately 6 million plus shoppers per month.)
In Singapore, the recently launched NomadX is a multi-brand concept store based on a bunch of the latest retail technology in a mix of established and emerging labels.
Located in Plaza Singapura over two levels, there’s a mix of fashion, accessories, food outlets, beauty and technology brands.
The idea is that the brand mix will be changed on a semi-regular basis – another way to capture the attention of the millenial. There are features like “a gamified onboarding process” which tells you what type of shopper you are. You can check yourself out in smart mirrors and rely on interactive product walls for shopping assistance. Your payment? It’s cashless.
From Karl To Taobao
Even the food outlets are using new technology to help you order your meal and get it served more quickly. In one store you ‘order’ the items you want. Your then pay via your cashless card. Lastly, you pick up your merchandise.
Singapore’s Teapasar’s first offline outing allows you to use ProfilePrint technology. This means you can try teas based on your taste preferences.
You have access to everything from the first Taobao physical store, clothing rental by Style Theory, make-your-own fragrances by Oo La Lab, and even a Karl Lagerfeld X Robinsons (yes, Robinsons!) collaboration pop-up store.
NomadX also is home to the first JBL store in Singapore, and it’s another smart addition. It’s got all the Google Assistant products you could ever want: Voice-activated speakers and wireless ‘over-ear’ headphones, plus phone notifications without having to look at your phone.
From the moment NomadX launched it has seen hordes of Instagramers engaging with the interactive walls and snapping up exclusive merchandise. Such physical, limited-time ‘event’ retail options are another way that brands are attempting to keep physical stores.
It’s a new experience, to be sure. With new tech being launched on an almost daily basis, the sky, we know, is the limit.
NomadX is at Plaza Singapura, 01-67, 03-65 to 69; Singapore.