There’s a lot of buzz in industry circles these days about the impact of “showrooming” on brick-and-mortar brands. Witness the excellent overview by Ann Zimmerman in the April 11 US edition of the Wall Street Journal,“Can Retailers Halt ‘Showrooming?’”
Ms. Zimmerman notes the anti-showrooming efforts of such retailers as Target and Walmart, and the challenge of meeting-and-beating pure play pricing and assortment breadth.
And, she also gets to the core of the issue: It’s not about competition between stores and pure play websites. It’s about competition between the websites of brick-and-mortar brands, and the websites of the pure plays.
We live in the era of Google, an era of web-based search, an era where just about any detail of just about anything can be found on the Internet. Studies of recent shopper behavior show a steady climb in the number of US shoppers who begin their purchase journey with online research. Nearly two-thirds of US adults do so regularly.
The Internet is the front door to all retail brands these days – not just the pure plays. It’s where shoppers are initially won or lost – and where store traffic is increasingly generated.
John Lewis, a leading U.K. retailer, is now piloting two Cisco StyleMe Virtual Fashion Mirrors at its flagship London department store on Oxford Street, providing customers with a virtual way to try on clothes. The mirrors were developed by the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), with partners C In-store, AITech, and The Team.
The 6- by 3-foot mirrors incorporate built-in cameras that capture shoppers’ body dimensions and positioning. Using artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and gesture-recognition technology, the mirrors then superimpose clothing items over customers’ on-screen images.
In effect, the mirrors become virtual changing rooms where customers can create complete outfits from more than 500 women’s-wear garments and accessories selected from johnlewis.com. This makes the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable by letting customers see how they look in new outfits without getting undressed.
In previous blog I wrote about the impact of omnichannel on retailers and how some retailers are coping with the new realities succesfully, and some are not. In our next conversation with Brian Kilcourse, managing director of Retail Systems Research we talked about the impact of omnichannel on the retail supply chain.
I happened to pause last week at a pile of newspapers in my father’s house in Atlanta.
The reason: A feature article about Cisco on the front page of the March 25th business section of the Journal-Constitution.
The article was interesting. But best of all, it jumped from the front page to the inside pages of the section… which is why, on page D2, I stumbled across one of the best, common sense advisory articles on retail technology I’ve read in a long time.