Headsets at Tommy Hilfiger.
Technology is sexy! It’s also expensive. Retailers everywhere are testing technology in-store to drive awareness and deliver sales growth. While such tests can be tremendously successful and enhance the shopping experience, it only works when the technology plan is developed with a deep understanding of the consumer and is integrated seamlessly into the entire shopping experience.
Recently, Tommy Hilfiger announced the launch of virtual reality headsets to enhance the shopping experience in select stores. However, they have already removed the headsets due to poor performance. At their New York flagship store, we were told that the headsets were removed within a week of launch as they were not delivering against the strategy. Rather than enhancing the shopping experience for consumers and driving sales, the headsets had become a means of fleeting entertainment for the children of shoppers—definitely not the target customer segment!
Let’s look at why this in-store technology experiment went wrong.
Virtual Reality at Tommy Hilfiger
Shoppers were sent to the top floor of the New York flagship store where there was a seating area and they were invited to don a pair of virtual reality glasses. These bulky glasses created a 3D virtual reality experience and made consumers feel like they were sitting front row at the fall/winter Tommy Hilfiger show.
The Two In-Store Technology Mistakes
1. Not Aiding Discovery
Technology should be used to enhance the consumer experience and move consumers along the path to purchase. In order to do this successfully, the technology has to satisfy at least one, and typically several, of the 5 consumer shopping need states: Convenience, Value, Discovery, Connection or Transparency. The primary purpose of virtual reality headsets is aimed at aiding Discovery of the store’s products. However, the headsets failed to effectively move the customer along the path to purchase because Tommy Hilfiger failed to integrate the technology effectively into the consumer path to purchase.
While the headsets helped consumers visualize how clothing looked when worn, it neglected to give consumers the instant gratification of being able to touch, feel and try-on the product as soon as consumers saw something they liked. Consumers had to sit through the entire video, remember what they liked, and then navigate the store in order to find the items shown. It was difficult for consumers to get assistance from store associates because they needed to describe the outfit in order for the associate to find it. As well, some items were from fall/winter 2015 and were available in store while others were previews of the spring/summer 2016 collection.
Because consumers were immersed in the experience, there was not an opportunity to note the items of interest while watching. We were surprised at this oversight, since retailers like Hudson’s Bay Company have already started experimenting with interactive shoppable videos that allow customers to take note of what products they liked as they watched.
2. Lack of Understanding About Their Customers
The Tommy Hilfiger experiment also fell down due to a lack of understanding about their target customer. Busy consumers, some travelling with children, do not have the time to sit down and watch several minutes of a show, let alone the full event which is often 15 to 20 minutes long when staged during Fashion Week. Unlike augmented reality apps that help consumers while they browse the store, consumers wearing these headsets had to sit and remain in a fixed location since 3D virtual reality glasses are not designed for walking around while enjoying the experience.
There were also security and comfort factors at play. Even though the ‘theatre’ was set-up on the fourth floor of the store, one still feels very vulnerable sitting in the middle of a New York City store detached from their surroundings while watching a 3D show. Holding tight to purse and packages does not make for a relaxing viewing experience and does not leave the consumer in a mindset to purchase. The glasses are also bulky and look rather odd when worn. For the vain among us, there is the concern about ruining your hair while wearing them.
Examples of Successful In-Store Retail Technology
Successful retail technology is integrated into the consumer shopping experience and demonstrates an understanding of the consumer and how to meet her/his needs.
Rebecca Minkoff used a similar concept of sharing her runway show with consumers in her NYC flagship store. At the store entrance, there were screens showing her most recent collection. As consumers watched the show, they could tap the screen to choose items and have them delivered to a dressing room. While this application lacked the pizzazz of 3D virtual reality, it helped to move the customer along the path to purchase.
A retailer who has invested significantly in technology to create an integrated experience throughout the store is Nike. While less glamorous, they offer internet connected screens that aid in discovery and convenience, helping consumers to find product and order for delivery should it be out of stock. As a fitness store, they also offer treadmills so consumers can try product to ensure it meets their needs. Delivering on added convenience, which is largely responsible for the success of shopping apps like Apple Pay, helps to reduce returns and save time for the consumer. Nike shares their consumers’ values of getting and staying fit, and their use of technology demonstrates this commitment by helping shoppers get ready to workout and achieve their fitness goals.
Don’t Let Technology Become An Interesting Distraction
While there is a lot of standalone technology that is interesting, technology that does not move the consumer down the path to purchase is merely an interesting distraction. Taking an integrated consumer focused approach to in-store technology is less costly for the retailer, better satisfies consumer needs and delivers increased loyalty while driving sales.