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What needs are Zalando's "fashion car" actually meeting?

Every so often, a press release drops into my email account that has me scratching my head and wondering if it’s April 1 already. This week it’s the turn of European etailer Zalando to get me checking the diary.

The business has it seems launched a “fashion concept car” at the Geneva Motorshow, promising buyers that it will take mobile shopping to the next level.  

Zalando Fashion Car

The car uses an augmented reality app to scan outfits worn by passers-by - in the well-branded video, the stylish pedestrian helpfully stops and drops like the best catwalk model.

Once recognised, the items can be delivered to your car using an inbuilt GPS tracking system – here the video suggests that the delivery boy has rather easy access to your boot, so make sure you don’t leave anything valuable in it.

The impulse buyer then uses a rather flimsy-looking “mobile changing room” (otherwise known as a shower curtain) to shift, chameleon-like, into the woman she has just seen strolling down the road.

After establishing that it is a genuine invention – and it is on show in Geneva for another week - the car prompts certain other questions.

‘Why on earth do I need this*?’ leaps to mind, as does ‘Isn’t it a bit creepy scanning strangers on the street?’ and ‘Shouldn’t you be keeping your eye on the road?’.

Anyone who has ever attempted to use other augmented reality apps, or even voice recognition service Siri, is almost certain to wonder whether it will actually work – after all, pedestrians don’t tend to pause midstride in order for you to copy their wardrobe.

But Zalando’s chief marketing officer Christian Meermann is heralding it as “fulfilling the needs of the customer of tomorrow”

It is, he adds, Zalando’s “vision of mobile shopping development over the next five years, when customers can place orders from their car as easily as from their sofa using their iPad”.

Innovation is crucial to the survival of businesses, especially with the pace of change we are now seeing, but sometimes developers come up with something so innovative that you wonder exactly what need it is meeting and who would ever use it.

* I did once ask this about mobile phones, so perhaps it’s best to ignore me

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