What if we told you that we’ve been able to travel through time and space since the year 2000? Well, almost… That was the year Mercedes de Miguel
launched an “automatically regulated variable lighting system” (SIVRA in its Spanish acronym) that reproduces light as its seen at different times of day, during every season, at any location on the planet. The designer, well known for her innovative fabrics, used this technology to allow her customers to get an idea of how they’d look in a particular dress bought in the dead of winter at her Bilbao store at a Caribbean wedding weeks later. Meanwhile we’ve had to wait 15 years for retail giant Inditex to take a step forward and begin testing its first virtual fitting rooms at a Zara store in San Sebastian. Equipped with a tablet that allows you switch sizes and choose an outfit without leaving the dressing room, they may gradually make their way into the brand’s more than 2,000 stores worldwide.
Luis Lara, Senior Advisor of the KPMG
Fashion department and Professor ot the Intensive Master's Program in Communication and Fashion at IED Madrid
predicts that “stores of the future won’t change substantially, but there will be increasingly more technology behind them, thereby relieving sales staff of many of their current duties so they can devote more time to customer service. Plus, this approach will strengthen the 360° experience in brick-and-mortar stores.”
What’s certain is that since the invention of the loom and up until the dawn of e-commerce, new technologies have redesigned the fashion industry again and again, perennially overcoming all initial resistance against their disruptiveness. We won’t bother wading into the current debate about whether or not it’s advisable to reconsider fashion shows as B2C events, or the enormity of the revolution sparked by “see-now-buy-now” buttons and what they mean for industry timing. The omnichannel approach is currently the cornerstone of all integrated marketing strategies meant to build the loyalty of an inter-connected customer that’s keen on information and immediacy. As the Innovation Department at Cortefiel
explained, “customers have a standardized shopping experience regardless of where, when or how they shop. We allow them to make their way through the shopping process regardless of the channel they’re in, or the time they prefer. In order to make all of this possible, we need technology, logistics, and a review of corporate organizational structures.”
“It’s evident to us that today’s customers are absolutely omni-channel customers. They may have an initial contact with the brand through social media, then visit their website to see the catalog, stop by and have a look through a store to see something that caught their eye on the site, only to end up buying it through the App and picking it up at another store,” Borja Zamácola, Neck & Neck
’s Director of New Technologies and Innovation explains. After adding QR codes to their tags and launching their App
, Neck & Neck is currently assessing whether to include virtual kiosks in their brick-and-mortar stores so that customers can query stock or make purchases using this device. “The important thing about this process is to identify such customers as individuals and be able to transmit a consistent brand message throughout all those different channels. Companies that provide this 360° experience have a competitive advantage over the rest,” Zamácola added.
In fact, the challenge lies in identifying customers in order to personalize their experience as much as possible. Algorithms, the 21st-century collective big brother that knows (almost) everything about the clothes we’re going to buy, play a major role in the increasingly complex inner workings of the retail world. Sophisticated big data systems are already predicting our behavior and allowing brands to anticipate demand. “We no longer view our e-commerce as a just another point of sale or an added value service. We currently focus on designing comprehensive experiences and adapting them to each customer. The reality of the matter is that neither the channel nor the device matters. What’s important is being at the right place at the right time for our customers, and offering them the product and services they’re looking for. They choose where and how the transaction is carried out, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in the overall process,” Mango
officials inform us.
“We’ve tested assistance devices in fitting rooms, interactive screens in the sales area, gauged customer experience on social media from within the store, mobility…” Desigual
spokespersons tell us. “We’re breaking the barriers between the physical and digital. It’s a challenge, especially for a company like Desigual, which distributes through 16 channels, but the recent launch of the new logistics center and the new single stock management system will certainly contribute to ongoing improvement,” they added. “Digital commerce at Desigual has two aspects: the e-commerce platform allows for the offline channel to be digitalized. Furthermore, the online sales channel itself allows customers to not only shop, but to become familiar with the collection and to interact with the brand through UCG (User Generated Content), allowing customers to share their outfits and looks.”
Within the scope of social shopping we’ve already seen an interesting initiative by Adolfo Domínguez
, which, under its “Recommend what you love” affiliate program, rewards participating users with a percentage of the sales generated by their recommendations. ‘Prosumer’ profiles surface in this scenario as active and mobile users that interact with the brand on a one-on-one basis.
Another e-commerce pioneer, Pretty Ballerinas
, recently unveiled its new concept store along the Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona
. “We’re setting up screens in all our stores because the future of window displays is interactive and visual,” according to founder David Bell. “And we’re adding new social Wifi systems so our customers can interact with our social networks at any given time in the process.” With the addition of the ‘buy” button, social networks are now set up as the new virtual marketplace where the distance between demand and purchase is being cut down.
Techie visionaries are already predicting that the future lies in intelligent algorithms and their application to conversational commerce. Once again, Adolfo Domínguez was one of the first brands to add instant messaging to its customer service
and Mustang now has an efficient virtual assistant
. But this is only the beginning…. Artificial intelligence applied to ‘bots’ will allow companies to create unique brand experiences that will evolve and become increasingly more interesting. There’s already talk of ‘v-commerce’ and the multiple possibilities of product interaction provided through virtual reality. Others point to item customization opportunities offered by 3D printing. It may sound like the stuff of science fiction for now, but current advancements paint a picture of a reality that’s not so far away, and Spanish fashion is boldly headed in that direction.