“Stores of the Future” Offer the Latest in Retail Technology

Beth Perry, Content Marketing Editor

Uri Minkoff is a guru when it comes to the innovative use of new technologies. With a background in software, he’s the driving force behind what Morgan Stanley describes as the “stores of the future,” and he speaks frequently about the nexus between fashion, retail and emerging technologies. So I was pretty much blown away when I heard Minkoff, CEO and founder of Rebecca Minkoff, share recently at Shoptalk about the future of retail and some amazing tools Rebecca Minkoff is using to offer customers new experiences.

What exactly are they doing? Using an interactive mirrored video wall at Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship New York City store in Soho, shoppers can order a complimentary glass of bubbly, shop the latest collections and try out Rebecca’s favorite designs in smart fitting rooms that feature mood lighting they can personally adjust. Customers can also tap a screen behind the mirror to swap out colors and sizes and notify an associate who will deliver the new items. They also see personalized recommendations and can save their fitting room session if they’re feeling indecisive.

Uri founded the company in 2005 with his sister, Rebecca, and also serves as creative director for the brand’s men’s line. Today, it’s the largest global fashion label led by a female Millennial designer.

Social platforms, along with this “age of experience,” are “disrupting fashion and retail as we know it,” Minkoff said. Today, it’s not so much about the product, but “the experience that you put out on the social platform,” he said. Peer-to-peer engagement is today’s social currency. After all, the typical Millennial may spend her hard-earned money to go to Coachella. She might not know where she’s going to stay. “But by golly, she’s going to get that picture in front of that ferris wheel so you know she was there.”

Overcoming the Disconnect

Back in 2005, the fashion world was more like a dictatorship where a handful of key editors, brands and buyers decided what people wore. Minkoff said that felt too risky. He saw how peer-to-peer engagement was affecting the worlds of computers and music and decided to focus on the consumer. The company jumped on every social platform and quickly grew a strong following.

Rebecca became the first designer to talk to customers online, often at night. Their following grew quickly and in concert with a cadre of customers known as “The Minkettes,” who said, “We are your army. We will go anywhere with you.” Their user-generated content helped transform the brand’s website to best-in-class.

But while the company had developed a solid ecommerce business, they had concerns about the overall retail experience. First, there was a disconnect. Online consumers could save things on their devices and receive recommendations from the designer, but that wasn’t happening in stores. Also, the human experience – namely interaction with store employees – needed improvement. No one wants to walk into a store and be bombarded by someone who is “all over you.”

The brand also wanted shoppers to feel they “owned” the fitting room and the store and be able to digitally record their shopping experience to share with family and friends. They also wanted to eliminate checkout lines. After all, they’re just places of judgment.

“You’re looking at how much the person in front of you is buying, what their sizes are,” Minkoff said, not to mention whether the person “had a good payday or not a good payday.” Rebecca Minkoff looked at human elements that could prevent a sale and created technology to improve the in-store experience.

Mood Lighting and More

In addition to the revolutionary video wall, the merchandise also bears radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. When the shopper walks into a fitting room, corresponding imagery for the items she’s trying appears on a screen behind the mirror. With a tap of the screen, the customer can adjust the lighting. If she’s buying something to see Wyclef Jean tonight, she’ll be planning for a different vibe than if she’s buying a poolside ensemble. She can then click images to see recommendations of other items that go well with what she’s trying on and send a request to a store associate to bring the items to her. When she’s finished, an associate comes to help her check out.

Stores with this technology sell three times more apparel. “All of a sudden, 35 to 40% of the people in the fitting room are asking for additional items,” Minkoff said.

Creating a FOMO

Before Rebecca Minkoff opened its Los Angeles store, it showcased that location as an entertainment hub and hosted hot yoga classes set to hip-hop.

“We created this sense of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out,” Minkoff recalled. People who Tweeted, Instagrammed and Snapchatted the event created a viral effect. For the opening, Rebecca Minkoff partnered with beauty brand Smashbox to customize women’s bags and lipstick and had photo sessions featuring attendees. The result? 19 million Instagram impressions in 24 hours, not to mention ecommerce traffic spikes and a sales surge.

During the 2015 New York Fashion Week, Rebecca Minkoff recognized the small leather goods category was becoming stagnant, but they knew that month would also mark the release of new iPhones. So the company created new tech accessories with charging capabilities to show for the first time. They sold out right away.

Wrist Drones and More?

Looking ahead, Minkoff hopes to work with big tech companies as a bridge between Silicon Valley and the fashion world. Last year, he judged a competition that featured an “amazing wearable that was a drone that would go off and fly and come back to your wrist.”

He predicts virtual and augmented reality will be big in the fashion space. The company worked with Intel to film its runway show using a drone. The goal? Give customers a better than front-row experience with audio, video and 360-degree spatial imagery.

Eventually, he thinks people could use such technology from their home and feel like they’re stepping into a Rebecca Minkoff store or Bergdorf Goodman or Selfridges virtually, with their friends. After all, it goes back to creating this peer-to-peer group and using technology to create an entertaining in-store experience.

“The future of this really becomes the shared space we create,” Minkoff said. “That’s how we see commerce moving forward.”