Picture this, ladies… You walk into the store and go straight to the big mirror with the touchscreen panel beside it. You select select 30 different clothing items from the touchpanel and then stand on the big spot on on the floor. As if by magic, the first pair of jeans that you selected appears in the mirror right over your reflection giving the illusion that you are wearing them. They look ok, but you aren’t sure. Not to worry as you asked some of your BFFs to join you online. That image in the mirror is also showing up on your page and your friends can vote up or down on each selection. In fact, anyone who is a friend on MySpace, Facebook, or any other social networking site for that matter, can weigh in on how those new jeans look. They can also IM you through the mirror. But wait, there’s more… They can also pick out other pieces for you to try by selecting items from the store’s online catalog. Those new items now appear on the touchscreen panel. After you’ve sampled all the pieces, you can actually try on just the ones that your friends say looked the best on you.
There are also RFID and data-mining components in the system that help retailers monitor inventory in real time and collect data that provides valuable insight into customer mindsets, behaviors and evolving needs.
I saw this bit of technology at the National Retail Federation’s Store of the Future – X07 display at their conference in NYC. It’s the brainchild of IT Services company IconNicholson and they call it “Social Retailing”. Clearly, IconNicholson understands that today’s youth is hyper-connected and extremely social. They are always traveling in a group, either physically, or virtually via phones and IM. They also understand that tech-savvy young consumers can be compulsive shoppers who look for validation and approval by their social groups for their purchase decisions, especially regarding soft lines.
“Social retailing is a concept that evolved out of our work building
personas based on youth shopping needs, behaviors and current technology
trends,” says Rachael McBrearty, VP Creative Strategy. “The demonstrations in X07 provide retailers with a vision for how they can reach the audience at the center of the social computing craze seen in websites like YouTube and MySpace, to connect in-store shopping with the online world in a way that is new, entertaining — and completely relevant.”
It’s Facebook meets the Mall and it’s a capability that is available using today’s technology. There’s bound to be a fair amount of complex code behind the scenes to make this work, but it clear to me that the retailer that pulls off social media shopping and couples it with IT systems will have quite the competitive advantage.