2014.09 | worn on tv | beacon sunglasses | emoji search

As Seen on TV

Worn on TV – Showing that alternate channels and affiliate sales continue to expand as alternative sales opportunities for retailers, Worn on TV lists clothing and accessories that are showcased on television shows.   Visitors to the site can search by show, by episode and even by character.  It is not evident how the site is validating the clothing shown – whether it comes from the network, the service or is crowdsourced; but it’s a novel idea, and you have to expect that they are capturing some revenue by sending traffic to the retailer’s eCommerce sites.

From a retailer perspective, a site like this represents a tremendous opportunity to sell fashions in an understated manner without relying on commercials that are being avoided via DVR by most people anyway.  Retailers would be wise to track how many hits they are getting from the sites, and even by show to understand where their clients are coming from so that they can best showcase their fashions on the shows driving the traffic.  Making this data actionable, sales staff enabled with tablets and access to this site could potentially drive more product by understanding clients taste and leveraging the publicity from the show as shopper profiles are connected.

tzukuriBeacon Sunglasses – While those of us in retail technology are focused on using beacons for unique retail experiences, Tzukuri are putting iBeacons directly into their sunglasses.  Much like many card based bluetooth tools that will tell you when you leave your wallet behind by sending an alert to your mobile, these specs will send a notification from a built-in solar powered beacon to your iPhone via iBeacon when you get more than 16 feet from them.  An app can then later tell you where your iPhone was last in contact with them so you can return and pick them up.

Leveraging beacons in sunglasses is a novel and practical idea; who hasn’t left sunglasses behind at some point.  Stepping beyond the ability to locate lost frames, with beacons built into the glasses and central profiles kept on clients, retailers could now even leverage the beacons on the sunglasses to identify shoppers who come into their store – even if they don’t have their mobile device. To take advantage of these sales and customer service opportunities, retailers will need to be nimble in building out the data fields required in upcoming versions of their client profiles and consider how to interface all of these identifiers to staff working at stores.

yelp emoji searchEmoji Search – Yelp recently updated their mobile app to allow searches by emoji. Instead of having to search for wine, for example, by typing the word wine, users of yelp can now type one character – the wine glass via the emoji keyboard on an iphone – to search on wine.  While searching via emoji seems a silly idea on the surface, it represents an understanding of a certain subset of users that use their app.  Emoji entry avoids the annoyance of typing on touchscreens or waiting for Siri to look.  It’s a fresh, simple idea, and drives users to approach the app with a different perspective.  It’s also another way of providing shoppers choice – a key function in today’s endless sea of options.

 

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2014.08 | vmbeacon | amazon dash

iconemeVMBeacon – Part of the key benefit of visiting a store that sells fashion is to gain a sense of that retailer’s sense of style as opposed to merely rifling through a pile of shirts on a table.  Mannequins have long been a tool for retailers to provide a view of their offerings that reflects how they will look when assembled in real life – very different from how clothing appears while hanging on a rack.   As a shopper, I’ve often been the one in the store taking a photo of the mannequin with my mobile and then hunting through the entire store to assemble the particular items that I like.  If I can’t find any of the items, I drag some poor soul working in the store to the mannequin to show them what I need.

VMBeacon by Iconeme is a solution that adds beacons to mannequins in stores to assist shoppers like myself to avoid the effort of searching through the store for the items I wish to purchase or try on that are shown on mannequins.   The solution connects beacons to the mannequins in store.  Leveraging a yet to be released app, these beacons point shoppers to a page on their mobile that shows all of the items on the mannequin that compose the look.  This allows shoppers quick access to the items, and presumably an easier path to find them.

Beacon powered mannequins seem an inevitable solution, and there are a number of considerations for when that really occurs:

  • Ensuring that the right data is connected to the right mannequin will be crucial.  Checking with the app to ensure that the mannequins settings online match the outfit should be part of the operational store process for changing the mannequin’s ensemble.
  • Providing location for items via a mobile app will be difficult in a specialty store environment.  There are rarely aisle numbers and sections are difficult to identify.  The greater benefit here may just be having the product’s unique identifier and being able to tell if the item is in stock in the correct size.  Knowing that, it would be more productive to drive the shopper to store staff for validation of location.
  • The demo recommends capturing shoppers into a store with the mannequin beacon on the app sending a message.  I’m not certain this is the best use of the technology.  The fashion should be the driver to pull out the mobile to get more information, not to stare at the mobile to see the fashions on a tiny screen when I’m in a shopping area with the fashions in the window.
  • Sharing fashion via Facebook is well and good, but being able to pin it to Pinterest, or add items to a wishlist or evernote or some other service would be more useful to remember favoured items.
  • If the store is not one that I visit often, I’m not likely to have an app.  As beacons only work with apps as far as I am aware at present, there will be some missed opportunity for service.  Signage or video indicating the service exists and a link to the app would be ideal.

Beacon enabled mannequins are a wonderful idea.  Like most solutions, the challenge will be in the details and operations to ensure this concept is implemented to best advantage to retailer, store staff and shoppers.

 

amazon dashAmazon Dash – Continuing their endless drive in any direction possible for more sales, Amazon recently unveiled the Amazon Dash.  Dash is a purpose built bar scanner and audio recorder that allows Amazon Fresh customers to add items to their online grocery cart as soon as they run out by either verbally prompting Dash or scanning them with Dash.  The idea is to have the small device handy in the home and ensure capture whenever the shopper runs out or thinks of a required item.

A few thoughts on this concept:

  • The Amazon mobile app can work just as well for this function as yet ANOTHER device in the home.  How many people have their mobiles on them constantly – everyone.  How many people can’t find a TV remote? Everyone.  This thing will get lost.
  • It’s not clear how this is unit is synchronized to the website/mobile devices, but there will be issues with synching or setup that negate the simplicity of the item. What seems simple to bleeding edge techie lovers is not obvious to someone who uses a purpose built device to scan stuff in the kitchen.
  • Support.  A support team will have to exist just for this item.  Updates because iOS/Android changed their settings?  Time for a new version.  Does this appliance download new setting automatically?  Important back end work that must be handled carefully.
  • Batteries.  Charging.  Another USB adapter? No thanks.
  • Kids love beeping and laser lights.  It would be fascinating to observe a shopping basket once a toddler gets their hands on an Amazon dash!  One or many of everything please?
  • Water, sink, food, kitchen clutter, powder rooms.  All enemies of the Dash that challenge its ease of use and life as a tool.
  • I’m really going to go downstairs, get this thing and scan a package of toilet paper when it runs out?  Who is that organized?
  • I’m limited to one vendor for my groceries with this tool?  What about price checking?  What about coupons?  What about remembering the quantities of something for a recipe.

On paper this seems like a productive concept, and it may suit a particular audience, but this device seems a bit of an odd option for the sorts of people who might order their groceries from Amazon.  Dash represents a creative concept, and it will be interesting to see how the test period. I would personally stick to evernote for my shopping lists.  Let’s see how the Millenials approach it!

2013.20 | design my outfit

When I want to buy clothes, I like to buy an entire outfit.  I’m not one for matching things.  I’d like to buy a shirt, pants, maybe a jacket – maybe even shoes and a belt.  I know for a fact that there are people at retailers much better than I at putting together an entire look, and not sell me a shirt.  When I used to visit menswear stores for suits, store staff  used to do that for me.  Most of my clothing shopping now is online and I’m noticing an unfulfilled need.

There are lots of ways to shop for clothing online.

  • Pinterest is helpful for checking out new things under Men’s Fashion and adding anything that catches your eye to your account.
  • My usual retailers constantly (really – constantly) send me email messages with different looks.  Many of them are for women and children (really – in the days of omnichannel ?!?)
  • Many retailers provide you with lookbooks, or blogs that can provide some direction for the fashion minded.

While all of this is entertaining, there is a serious shortcoming in the world of specialty retail.  Other than high end retailers, I’ve not seen any retailer do a terrific job of assisting customers to assemble an outfit or a wardrobe.  Everyone is still selling articles of clothing.  They are not selling a look – though they are showing them to us. Consequently they are missing sales and overlooking an opportunity to provide a valuable add-on service to their clients.

When you visit the ecommerce sites of  a Banana Republic as an example, they both have collections, looks and full outfits they show, but they make you work at trying to put together the ensemble.   BR recently sent me an email with their summer collection.  It shows a number of outfits for summer 2013.  Sounds good.  Say you like one of the outfits.  You click on it.  You get a list of shirts.  What?  Why can’t you just click on the outfit, and you show me all of the pieces so I can just buy the outfit?

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JCrew seem to be going in the right direction.   In their lookbook, when you click on a look, you get a list of the items in the picture.

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This is better.  Many of the pieces are populated on the resulting page – but not all of them.  The optimal scenario would be to see all of the elements together on one page, where we can swap out the blue shirt for a white shirt, change the belt, and see the look.  Even better than that, have various options pre-set to show the shopper.

Another pet peeve on the web sites.  These guys know my sizes.  I login when I’m on their ecommerce sites.  Why am I picking from lists all the time?  Why not default to my sizes I usually buy and let me adjust from there?

Stores that I visit seem to be worse.  When I visit a store, they’ll have a mannequin that is sporting a shirt and pants that seem a good option.  The shirts are right next to the mannequin, but the pants are AWOL.  Mixed in with fifty others types of pants that aren’t quite the same ones.   Why not label what the items are and put them near the mannequin?  If that’s not possible, find a simple way to tag the ones that are on the mannequin to make it easier for me to find them?  Some stores have staff that are good at this and some don’t.  Why not remove the guesswork for those people and set an operational program to do it for them via numbering, coloured tags or some logical scheme?

I’ve also always wondered why clothing retailers don’t partner with other retailers to let me buy all at once?  As an example, why not have Aldo put some shoes in here that suit the look. Then after I close my order direct me to the Aldo site?  Perhaps Aldo can give BR or JCrew a little kickback for the sale and everyone wins.

I don’t mean to pick on these particular retailers.  I mention them because I frequent their sites and buy their products and I like them.  I’m aware that the ideas I’m suggesting require some sophisticated coding, and significant thought and effort.  Partnerships with other companies are difficult – fitting fashion lines together would be fantastically challenging.  That said, showing me a whole outfit and letting me buy it with one click is going to get more dollars from me and probably some others as well.  If someone can solve it, there is real opportunity.

If the retailers don’t fulfill it, perhaps third parties can make it happen.  Pinterest may figure out a way to have users build outfits and set links to clients to get a sales commissions.  Perhaps services like Trunk Club can go downscale and fill the need.

Has anyone seen this done better?  An online valet service?  A retailer’s ecommerce site that does it well? Let me know what you’ve seen!  I think this can be improved upon for the benefit of all.

2011.18 | Sizing Booth, Mobile Payment, Social Media Vending

mybestfit – A mall near you may soon be featuring a booth that allows you to quickly know your size of choice at all of the stores in the mall.  The booths offered by mybestfit and currently installed in a Pennsylvania mall look very similar to full body scanning solutions see at the airport, but instead of scanning for dangerous items provide a very detailed sizing profile for users.  Given the ongoing vanity sizing taking place in fashion, this could be a very useful service.   While it doesn’t solve the problem of varying sizes at stores, it could take some of the guesswork out of picking the right size clothing to take to the dressing room.  Whether these booths use the same technology or not, the footprint is essentially identical.  This means that the biggest obstacle for this solution is removing consumer perception that ‘nude’ images of them will surface on the internet somewhere.  While they highlight that users stay clothed for sizing, I see no validation that privacy is assured and that no images are seen or kept.  This solution needs to be sold carefully to consumers and locked down hard against technically proficient attendants with, shall we say, a potentially loose sense of privacy and online behaviour.  I’m not suggesting that these points would be front and centre of their marketing plan, but there should be an FAQ somewhere.  I’m not shy, and I trust the airport security who protect us to a reasonable degree to keep images to themselves as a semi-official professional organization, but I don’t trust some person at the mall I’ve never met, and nobody else should either.  Privacy issues aside, if it works as advertised, it’s a very impressive and practical solution, and it would be great to see it in the local mall.

Mobile Payment – Much hyped Square had come under some fire from the payments industry for security holes, but is looking to move towards industry standards with some investment from Visa.   Also, for those of us with those EMV woes that may want to pay or be paid through these iPhone interfaces, iZettle out of Sweden apparently have an EMV flavour of card reading device.  As always, the mobile wallet brings controversy, multiple players, and no simple answer any time soon.

Social Media Vending MachinePepsi recently announced social media capability in a new breed of vending machines.  Users can purchase a Pepsi for a friend at a machine, and the friend can pick up their beverage at another social media enabled vending machine.  Users can send the beverage with a personalized text message or some macines will even have video message capability.   Check the video for more details.  It’s fascinating how vending and self-service are increasingly converging.  The improvements in technology seem to allow the only limit to the solution be the imagination of the responsible party.  That and a solid budget.  As these systems become increasingly complex, the support infrastructure behind it will need to become more robust than the person in the delivery truck unlocking the unit and emptying the coins.  The thought behind supporting solutions like these for the long term is as important as the idea itself, as this solution support – the infrastructure for the video, the supply chain for the merchandise, the ability to monitor the uptime of the system, and the ongoing care and feeding in general – will be what makes these solutions a success or a giant boat anchor.  A boat anchor with a large, blank flat LCD on the front of it.

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