What does the shop of the future look like? On first glance, Dandy Lab, a new tech enabled men’s lifestyle store in Spitalfields, the shop of the future appears to be not that different to… a shop. A selection of clothes hang on hangers, which in turn hang on rails in a clean white space. There’s a bit of bare brick work here and there. Shelves. That kind of thing. Oh, and it also stocks cult brands which boast a Made In England provenance. So far, so Spitalfields. But take a closer look and it soon becomes clear that the place is positively buzzing with all kinds of whizz bang tech. After all, how many boutiques boast Cisco and cutting edge Silicon Roundabout start ups such as Snap Fashion as launch partners?
The Story Wall, an interactive display where you scan a product and a screen starts playing a video featuring information about the product’s provenance, its performance capabilities and the craftsman who produced it, is enabled by a Near Field Communication tag. Without it a simple white shirt is just that. But with NFC you get an insight into the factory where it was made, the amount of work that went into its production, and ultimately, a better sense of what you’re spending your money on – just as you would when shopping online. Dandy Lab also boasts Snap Fashion technology, whereby a camera takes a photo of your outfit and then a screen suggests items in-store which would complement or even purposefully clash with what you’re wearing. Again, this is reminiscent of search algorithms which suggest pieces based on previous searches or purchases when shopping online.
And crucially, for marketing purposes, all of this activity can be broadcast on social networks. The shop’s strapline is: ‘Discover. Learn. Share’ and aims to be a blend of the best of bricks and mortar retail with the best of online shopping.
They’re not the only ones
The Burberry store on Regent street contains 500 speakers and 100 screens to create a fully interactive, immersive brand experience. RFID tags on clothes activate screens in changing rooms to show catwalk and other footage relating to the product. Cutting edge tech and age-old craft combine at the Left Shoe Company with the use of 3D scanners to create a virtual model of a customer’s foot for made-to-measure shoes. Cubbit’s the Soho optician, has a digital facial gauge which can measure the proportions of your face down to the millimetre for the perfect fit. And finally, as part of its ‘Festival of Imagination’, Selfridges have a Zaha Hadid designed superyacht for sale. Displayed using augmented technology in-store, at £300 million, it is the most expensive item the department store has ever ever tried to sell. Best wait till the January sales then.
What we think
Some of this technology will necessarily be hit and miss: we are at an exciting experimental phase at the moment. Some of it will be quite silly, too. Indeed, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The role of the informed, courteous, and well-dressed sales assistant should never be underestimated. However, with the seemingly never ending growth of online retail, bricks and mortar shops would be foolish to not somehow try to find the perfect blend of both worlds. For us, the most interesting aspect of this trend is shareable social network aspect of it. The right technology, used in the right way, could potentially mean that your customers promote your services and products for you.