eBay is partnering with tech-savvy fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff to bring immersive digital technology to the designer’s foray into brick-and-mortar stores.
The first of four high-tech boutiques will open on Saturday in New York’s Soho area, followed by a San Francisco store (in the Pacific Heights neighborhood) that will open shortly thereafter and stores in Los Angeles (on Melrose Avenue) and Tokyo next year.
While the stores are permanent, eBay has signed on for a one-year (minimum) partnership to bring its e-commerce prowess to Minkoff’s first stores, powering touch screen interactive displays and digital fitting rooms designed with her customers—omnichannel-savvy, sophisticated and fashion-forward shoppers—in mind.[more]
The partnership offers a glimpse of the future of retail and expands on Minkoff and eBay’s previous test of interactive windows in shopping malls, as well as eBay’s 2013 shoppable store windows test with Kate Spade’s Saturday brand.
As Healey Cypher, eBay’s head of retail innovation, comments in the video above, “We’ve partnered together to create the Connected Store—a highly digital, seamlessly connected experience that brings the best of the online world into the physical.”
According to Uri Minkoff, the Rebecca Minkoff brand’s cofounder and CEO, the partnership also targets two ends of the shopping spectrum.
“We want to de-anonymize the shopping experience,” Minkoff, who’s also the designer’s brother, told Fast Company. “Our customer is a girl who is in her own personal music video and doesn’t necessarily want to interact with people. [But] at the other end, there are also customers who want a full, ‘pampered celebrity’ experience in the store. We want to serve these two extremes.”
According to eBay, each of the four Minkoff stores will feature new tech features developed by eBay’s innovation team, including:
• Check-in upon arrival: Through the Rebecca Minkoff mobile app, a shopper will be able to check-in to the store upon arrival which prompts their personal profile to be carried across Rebecca Minkoff store channels – helping store associates provide a more personal, customized experience.
• Connected Glass shopping wall: A mirrored, physical manifestation of Rebecca Minkoff digital content. A shopper can select “send to my room” to initiate a 1:1 styling session.
• Interactive fitting rooms: A touch screen mirror recognizes items in the room, identifying other sizes and colors that are available in the store. If the shopper needs a different size, a simple touch of the mirror submits the request to a store associate. The ubiquity of mobile devices, and the fact that both shoppers and in-store associates have access to them, will also help the Connected Store engage shoppers.
• The Rebecca Minkoff mobile app: Just launched on iTunes today, Minkoff’s first app will play a vital role in the Connected Store, offering “Beautiful, streamlined e-commerce experiences; social integration; real-time shopping option updates that store associates can share with shoppers.”
— Rebecca Minkoff (@RebeccaMinkoff) November 12, 2014
As for how customers will interact with these touchpoints, for example, as they enter Minkoff’s new NYC store, they can stop at the wall-length touch screen menu to see what’s happening and even order a free drink while they shop, entering a phone number to receive a text when their libation of choice is ready.
Besides creating an inviting, private shopping-style experience, sharing their cell number also provides a digital signature for in-store tracking, and can link to the customer’s Minkoff loyalty account. That way, she can access her “fitting room sessions” in the app and online, in addition to allowing sales associates to see her purchase and fitting history on an iPad and make recommendations accordingly.
Once in the fitting room, the RFID-tagged clothing and accessories provide an inventory for the store to track, while the mirrors, which double as touch screens, bring Minkoff’s e-commerce capability into the fitting room—a crucial point of decision-making—and could handle complete puchases in the future.
“For now,” as Racked notes, “the fitting room can track which items customers passed up, and the brand can contact them via email when the merchandise is back in stock in different sizes and colors.”
“The big question for tech vendors like eBay, retailers like Minkoff, and millions of American shoppers is if the technology works in crowded retail stores and if the benefits are worth the privacy trade-off,” Fast Company comments.
“In many ways, customers have already signaled that they don’t mind the attention. With mirrors that turn into touch screens and smart tags that note what you looked at and didn’t buy, Minkoff and eBay are simply implementing a real-life version of the pervasive tracking and cookies that have become part and parcel of the e-commerce experience.”
Privacy watchdogs and lawmakers, meanwhile, are ever-mindful of digital tracking of shoppers, with New York State Senator Charles Schumer telling Fast Company it’s “intrusive and unsettling. If you’re shopping, you expect to be the one doing the reviewing, but stores are flipping that on its head.”
But according to Uri Minkoff, the privacy trade-off is worth it for the “new shopper” who wants an enhanced experience. “What would be the ideal way of shopping that would take away the pain points?” he commented to the Wall Street Journal.
The Minkoff/eBay stores are targeting young omnichannel-omnivorous consumers—whose average U.S. holiday spending this year is estimated at $529 according to Deloitte—for whom in-store customer satisfaction, and seamless social/mobile integration, is crucial to sales.
— Rebecca Minkoff (@RebeccaMinkoff) November 12, 2014
“I felt like there was a lot missing from retail stores,” the designer—for whom this quartet of store openings represent her first standalone brick-and-mortal retail outposts—told the WSJ. “Being half naked and having to hope that someone sees you when you pop your head out, that’s never been a fun experience.”
Minkoff and eBay will also benefit from gatherine data that will connect the dots on the omnichannel experience, having already gleaned insights on a shared mall touch screen test with TOMS and eBay at select Westfield Malls last year. In that test, a curated collection could be scrolled a touch screen-enabled window and purchased using PayPal, with free home-delivery or mall pick-up on select items.
As for eBay, the e-commerce powerhouse gains an affluent, and influential focus group, with access to invaluable insights (and data) on how high-end, smartphone-savvy shoppers (and brand loyalists) behave in-store.
With last year’s Kate Spade Saturday pop-ups it didn’t get its foot in the door, although it did get the opportunity to test its (now-dormant) eBay Now delivery service as part of its 24-hour interactive storefronts test that saw New Yorkers interacting with touch screen windows on the sidewalk.
When the Kate Spade Saturday windows launched, eBay head of Innovation and New Ventures, Steve Yankovich, commented that “This is not a pilot for us. This is a thing we’re going to scale.”
Now, with the new Minkoff connected store partnership, Yankovich tells the Journal that shopping in stores isn’t about to go away—and that “what it looks like, how big it is and what’s inside those doors is definitely going to change.”
Before the doors open to customers, eBay and Minkoff already know that connectivity and utility are crucial in engaging the consumer in-store. “There are critical moments where they are going to buy something, or they are going to leave,” as Cypher told the WSJ. “We’re applying that exact same logic to the physical world.”
“The connected fitting room tells the store not only what shoppers bought, but also what they left behind,” Cypher added. “That opens the door to a follow-up, such as an alert when something a shopper tried on runs low in stock. It’s about capturing data you usually lose.”
Below, take a closer look at the eBay/Minkoff store opening this weekend in New York:
[Images via eBay/Rebecca Minkoff]