Fashion retailers tell us the technologies and innovations they are backing this year and the results they hope to see.
Chief information officer, River Island
In January, River Island partnered with management consultancy Accenture and real-estate firm Land Securities to back new retail and consumer startup accelerator, TrueStart, intended to give the company early access to innovation.
“Like many retailers, River Island is looking to drive iterative innovation improvements solving many of the lauded issues, such as driving conversion rates on our ecommerce platform, building an integrated omnichannel capability that blends the online and offline experiences, or heightened analytics capabilities that help us better understand and proactively respond to our customers.
“Saying that, what excites me most are the ground-breaking innovations that we may not even be thinking about today; those left-field propositions that will significantly differentiate us in the market.
I believe the next generation of ground-breaking innovation will most likely be targeted at millennials, since the way they consume information is vastly different to anything we have seen in the past.
“Big-ticket items will be around customer engagement and creating a seamless experience for the consumers. As well as covering the traditional shopping experience in our physical store and online, there will also be a greater focus on engaging consumers outside of the shopping platform - whether through direct marketing techniques, or indirect integration with social media platforms.
“Frankly, trends such as ‘mass personalisation’ lead me to believe that we have not even begun to dream up the technologies that will help improve the future customer experience.”
Head of marketing and PR at luxury lingerie retailer Rigby & Peller
This year will see Rigby & Peller continue its investment into in-store technology.
“We’ll be focusing on technology across three areas: 3D virtual mirrors, the use of tablets in stores and high-definition screens. These are measures we introduced into our flagship boutiques last year and will be looking to roll out in due course.
“We have introduced a 3D virtual mirror in fitting rooms at our Mayfair boutique [at 22 Conduit Street], a pilot which proved successful and will soon roll out to all other stores. The mirror records more than 140 measurements in less than a minute, determining body shape and curves. It photographs customers in every product and displays the product image on the monitor, allowing the customer to compare each immediately. It also stores all purchase behaviour, preferences and shape ID.
“The balance between our personal lingerie styling service and the mirror has been positively received by our customers who have found it has made shopping for lingerie a simpler, more enjoyable experience and the ability to compare products easily has encouraged them to go beyond their comfort zone and try styles which previously they may have not had the confidence to do.
“iPads are also being rolled out to staff across our entire estate, so customers can have access to our entire range of lingerie as well as online exclusives.
“High-definition screens have been installed into most Rigby & Peller stores, including Mayfair, St John’s Wood, Bow Lane, King’s Road, Cambridge and Harrogate, and are designed to inspire customers with a combination of aspirational lingerie catwalks and more educative content including styling advice.”
Senior manager, ecommerce, at outdoor clothing and footwear retailer Timberland EMEA
Supply chain management and payment processing will be key focuses for Timberland this year when it comes to investment.
“We are looking at partnering with a third-party provider like MetaPack, which integrates the key carriers into its system so retailers can be more nimble in managing multiple carriers from a single point [for deliveries to consumers]. If we integrate with MetaPack, its solutions [such as dynamic and accurate label creation and track and trace technology] will sit in the back of our web platform.
“This means that, instead of having to build a new solution to manage each carrier, we can simply add new carriers onto the same integrated system and manage them dynamically. This would allow us to switch from one carrier to another really quickly and also set rules, prioritising carriers who offer better services in some areas than others.
“We will also be looking at customer payment solutions like payment by bank transfer and by invoice, which we are investigating in Germany. Payment by invoice means customers can order online and pay after they receive their goods, depending on which items they decide to keep, so there is no payment upfront. Instead, an online payment provider takes the risk [managing debt claims and guaranteeing the retailer payment regardless of whether or not the customer pays] and the retailer pays them commission.
“Customers like to order and try multiple sizes and return goods, so it provides a profitability challenge, but from a servicing perspective, no money leaves the customer’s account and they have 30 days to decide what they want to keep. It is something to keep your eyes on - it’s big in Scandinavia and Germany.
“Our big investments are in ensuring cleanliness around services so that customers don’t have a good reason to say no.”
Editor-in-chief at luxury menswear etailer Mr Porter
Mr Porter has been working with US-based online video provider Brightcove since 2010, and uses its video-hosting platform and player solution to deliver the video series featured on Mr Porter’s website.
“All of our videos are conceptualised to work as ‘stories’ in The Journal, our weekly online magazine, and act as soft recruitment tools on YouTube for our customers. Further developing this kind of complementary content for our shoppers will be the driving force behind our ongoing investment in video.
“Our online video series is an example of content that entertains while whetting the viewer’s appetite to shop. Videos are in some ways a much easier way to encourage a consumer onto the site because they have a more instant impact than reading a written article. They also keep visitors on the site for longer - and the longer someone is on there, the more likely they are to buy something. Using video in this way also provides us with a tool to actively engage with our consumers in a positive way long after they’ve made a purchase.
“Currently we are looking into different options around how to improve our [video] players to make the purchasing experience more seamless. At the moment our videos feature many products that we sell on the site but, even though customers can browse for the product featured in the video directly from The Journal, they cannot purchase directly from the video. This will be the next step in linking our value-add video content to an easy purchase for our customers - something that will drastically improve their shopping experience moving forward.”
Head of technology at cycle clothing brand Rapha
In 2013, Rapha recruited marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi to build its website and worked with its connected commerce division, DigitasLBi Commerce, to integrate the multichannel software, Hybris. DigitasLBi continues to provide support and ongoing platform enhancements for Rapha.
“In early 2015 we are introducing a product review function using the Bazaarvoice network, allowing customers to share their experience of products via a ratings and feedback system. Users can submit questions and comments that will be moderated and answered by our in-house customer service team.
“This function was requested by individuals in our 2014 survey and will enhance our online shopping experience by showing authentic product feedback and more personalised fit details not typically covered in website copy. The platform allows for back-office moderation and analytics features that will provide us with additional metrics and customer insight.
“[In January 2015] we launched the Rapha Cycling Club (RCC), which is a members-only club of like-minded cyclists who ride, race, live and breathe the sport. A major component of this is the RCC Forum, which is about connecting with our customers using an informal communication method to organise rides and events and gather feedback and opinion.
“This year Rapha will organise even more rides and events through our online booking system, Tito [the software can be downloaded at Ti.to], including weekly rides from our Cycle Club locations and events such as the Manchester to London Challenge.”
Download Drapers’ Technology Investment Report
Head to Drapersonline.com/technologyinvestment to download our free white paper, in association with business solutions provider HSO. The report examines technology investment, with additional online-only features on:
● When is the right time to invest? We speak to fashion retailers to find out when they made the jump and what triggered the decision.
● The importance of real-time data. In today’s ultra-competitive market, real-time data, or something close to it, is essential to improve sell-through. But investment is needed to make it happen.
● The investor’s view. We speak to venture capitalists and analysts to get their views on investment and ask how it can future-proof retail businesses.