Fashion Retail OmniChannel Excellence

After investigating how some department stores in New York City reach their in-store customers through digital technology, our team of intrepid Fluid shoppers ventured to Fifth Avenue to see what some apparel brands are doing to achieve omnichannel excellence.

Uniqlo: We love Uniqlo with its fast fashion and affordable prices. Even from the sidewalk we could see they’re connecting with their in-store customers online. A window display of a digital photo sharing booth caught our eye and drew us in.

The booth, which promotes a series of T-shirts inspired by legendary graffiti artist Keith Haring, was really cool, the screen interface simple and intuitive. All we had to do was provide our email address, and then click to share the photos on Facebook. Great strategy, Uniqlo! If you’re going to ask for our email, then delivering immediate value (sharing pics, sales alert emails) is the best way to get it.

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The only hitch we encountered was finding the right app to share the photos via our cellphones. With 13 apps listed for Uniqlo in iOS, it took more time and effort than it should to make this a seamless omnichannel experience. Now that apps have been around for a number of years, brands like Uniqlo might want to clean their digital closets and throw out anything their customers have outgrown.

Zara: Fashion retailer Zara uses environmental video displays in different sections of their store, which is a nice tie-in to an omnichannel experience, even if it’s just setting a visual mood. Where they really achieve omnichannel excellence is their app. You can scan any barcode in the store and it will pull up product details. You can even purchase directly from the app. That’s a great option if you’re in a hurry, or if you don’t want to schlepp your new shoes around the city for the rest of the day.

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We think that Zara’s app is so good that they should promote it more in-store.  They may have good reasons for this–such as maximizing commissions for their sales associates–but to achieve omnichannel excellence the customer needs to come first, especially regarding convenience.

Diesel: The upscale jean retailer provides free wifi (which we love) but no app to enhance our in-store experience. We were happy to find a number of kiosks loaded with digital catalogs, but were disappointed that none of them worked. Maybe there was something wrong with Diesel’s network that day, but brands don’t get a second chance with most customers. It’s really important to make sure that every omnichannel device is functioning. It’s equally important to ensure that the sales associates are familiar with apps and devices and why customers value them. Which brings us so our next discovery.

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Diesel has a big funky machine (it’s wrapped in padded denim) that customizes jeans by laser stitching anything you want on them. Very cool idea, Diesel! Nothing puts the focus on the consumer better than product customization. As with the digital catalogs, however, it wasn’t functioning that day. A helpful associate walked us through how it is supposed to work and said that customers really love it. I’m sure we will too when it’s up and running.

Hollister: If you’re over 30, Hollister might feel like a flashback to a college house party: loud music, plenty of eye candy, the smell of Axe or some other guy body spray, and way too far to walk to the bathroom/keg/cash register. (The cash register at the Fifth Ave store is on the second floor, requiring you to back track when you’re  ready to make a purchase. But it does expose you to more merchandise so it’s savvy, if inconvenient.)

If you’re under 30, you’ll think this is the coolest store you’ve ever been to and you’ll wonder why any clothing store wouldn’t be set up to feel like a party.

Hollister actively promotes it’s #inhollister hash tag, making it easy to Instagram yourself in the store and connect the brand to your social network, and let everyone know about the great shopping party. After reading reviews of their app, however, we can see why they don’t promote it more actively. Sales associates told us that you may return items you’ve bought online in-store, which is convenient and logical.

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Ironically, one of Hollister’s coolest features—their Video Windows—isn’t omnichannel in the strictest sense, but it does bridge the gap between online and off-line experience. The entire width of the store facing the sidewalk is filled with monitors that compose a single image of live streaming video from an ocean beach. You can tell before you even enter the store that shopping here will be an immersive experience. The Video Windows appear at the rear of the store as well, near a lounge area where you can relax while your friends are shopping. Although it’s not smart technology that responds to movement or inputs, the installation communicates the brand’s values and lifestyle, making Fifth Ave seem like a sunny slice of Southern California. At least while you’re shopping.

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