Digital distruption: How integrating innovative technology enhances in-store experience


Understanding what customers want and how to stay on top of the game is at the forefront of any good bricks and mortar store strategy. But how can you infuse innovation into your business with customer focused technologies?

From 3D imagery to digital mirrors that allow real-time playback, experimentation is the name of the game and driving US department store Neiman Marcus’ innovation lab, called the iLab, to reimagine the in-store experience.

Speaking at the 2016 Online Retailer Conference held in Sydney, the Head of Innovation Lab at Neiman Marcus, Scott Emmons, told the audience how digital technologies are being used to create the store of the future. As the international keynote speaker, he ran through the various ideas and implementation processes that the team has undertaken in the US and explained how customer led thinking has underscored the success and return on investment (ROI) of these projects.

Starting at a grassroots level fours years ago, the iLab was established as an extension of the Neiman Marcus IT department. Today, they are global leaders in deploying digital infrastructure across the company’s 88 stores.

The team began by pioneering a project within its bridal business – 3D scanning.

“We played around with scanning brides, then tried producing content based on those scans,” said Emmons.

“All of that was great, but the business hated the scanning process,” he went on to explain. “It was a great idea but the tech wasn’t ready yet, and it took 45 minutes to scan and do the imaging.”

This test and learn approach drove them to go back to the drawing board. A few short months later – okay, 18 months – they were ready to try again with better technology and data-capturing capabilities.

This revolutionised the way consumers interacted with the products, essentially allowing them to hold their smartphone up to catalogues and see products in different colours or models walking across the page.

Fast forward and the lab’s biggest success has been their Memory Mirror. The mirror records what a customer’s looks like as they try on an outfit and plays it back to them. It’s also possible to compare outfits and share imagery with friends/family.

Now, you’re probably wondering about privacy – it didn’t slip their minds. In fact, the team spent 15 months troubleshooting problems including data privacy and security before launching the mirror in-store. At present, the technology has seen great success with eyewear manufacturer Luxottica, which uses it to sell sunglasses.

Innovative digital technologies can transform online buying but also change the way consumers search for product information and how sales teams respond to consumers.

For retailers, Emmons stressed that using technology should focus on the customer and solving a problem.

“If you focus on them, the store of the future will follow,” he explained.

These technologies just skim the surface. Emmons went on to talk about how they have using RFID tagging to improve store stock and display compliance, experiment with digital signage, and use mobile charging stations to provide new marketing and advertising touch points which in turn have helped to improved customer experience and extend time spent in store.

What’s next? Emmons wouldn’t let slip, but whatever they produce it’s bound to disrupt how retailers and customers shop like nothing else yet.