Welcome to Retail Reboot: the Practical Guide to Retail’s Tech Trailblazers.
We learned through 2020’s Retail HackGames that retailers are wary when it comes to investing in new technology. From the setup price to the time investment, to the disconnection between what a large multi-national retailer can achieve – a lot of retailers across all scales are hesitant to make the leap into new technology.
Wariness from retailers has resulted in a huge under-utilisation of tech providers. When considering they offer reliable solutions to prepare for a post-COVID landscape, fear from retailers makes about as much sense as panic-buying toilet paper. 🧻
We sat down for a chat with each tech provider from the Retail HackGames to introduce them to you, the retailer. After giving them a problem statement about a vendor affected by the pandemic, we asked about their solution. And we sought advice on behalf of retailers considering a new tech investment. Yep, we’ve basically done all of the hard work for you!
Discover why we launched the Retail Revival series here.
ShopExp bridges the gap between online and offline retailing through experiential shopping.
Their award-winning Smart Mirror is an Augmented Reality fitting room, using photorealistic virtual clothing, accessories, makeup and footwear that instantly displays styles for all body types.
Problem Statement: Introducing Mary.
Mary is a retailer based in Sydney’s desolate CBD. She opened her bespoke jewellry brand River and Stone just 5 years ago and currently showcases her products both online and in her luxury showroom.
COVID has posed endless challenges for Mary and her staff. Typically her showroom is abuzz with eager shoppers trying on her beautiful jewellery, however, due to strict new Retail Recovery protocols, and the inability to constantly disinfect her products after every try on, she has been forced to leave them in the glass display cabinets.
Yes, she has her online store, but this falls short on experience. Understandably, her customers love to try before they buy!
Her main concerns throughout COVID have included:
Rising rent prices
Store hygiene (Retail Recovery Protocols)
Unstable foot traffic
Let’s chat to Chandan Panda: Founder and Director of ShopExp.
MI Academy: Can you give us a snapshot of the solution ShopExp offers?
Chandan: The mission of our company is to bridge the gap between online and offline retailing. We use virtual try-on and a 3dD model solution.
We provide bricks and mortar stores the advantage of an online store, and online stores advantage of bricks and mortar stores.
MI Academy: How would a solution like ShopExp be of help to a retailer like Mary?
Chandan: Mary could use a small mirror – a tablet, like an iPad, or a Samsung tablet. The entire catalogue can be on display through this tablet.
Customers can browse through the range, and virtually try on pieces with the ‘try on’ button. They can actually see how it looks on them through a live camera, and compare different looks. They can even purchase directly from the app that’s installed on the tablet.
So they not have to physically touch any jewellry in the shop, or even try it on. Everything happens virtually. It’s a contactless experience for customers.
MI Academy: That’s great! Could you tell us about the set-up process for Mary?
Chandan: We need high-resolution images of the jewellry: front, back, and sides. Mary will be given a unique login and password to ShopExp, where she can upload those images.
We take those images and have our in-house 3D designers generate 3D models from scratch. And we then upload it to the backend for the retailer, and it appears in the online store.
The virtual try-on that Mary provided her customers in-store can also feature on her website. So customers can try on the products from the comfort of their home. Using a tablet or a laptop or their phone, they can try on any products through her website.
They can compare different looks, have a 360-degree view of the product like they would in a shop, and then go and hit purchase. It really helps increase the conversion rate of her website.
Our aim is to bridge the gap between online and offline.
MI Academy: Mary’s main concerns during the tumultuous COVID period have been rising rent prices, store hygiene (Retail Recovery Protocols), and unstable foot traffic. How might ShopExp help Mary with these?
Chandan: We have four key benefits: increasing sales; reducing operating costs; increasing the quality of the customers’ experience, and creating a sustainable fashion supply chain.
With unstable foot traffic and rising rent prices, ShopExp provides the in-store experience online so retailers don’t need endless racks of clothing or multiple fitting rooms.
ShopExp also helps retailers to pop up anywhere they want. So if Mary wants to be at an airport or shopping centre, or railway station… anywhere – you want to you name it – they can have a digital store there and not hire a huge space to open a store.
By taking away the need to try on clothing, makeup and jewellery, stores can adhere to the Retail Recovery Protocols with ease. They don’t need to sanitize products throughout the day.
MI Academy: How do you see your solution implemented to assist with the survival and revival of Australian retail post-COVID?
Chandan: ShopExp will be a great asset to retailers looking to regain customers’ confidence to walk back into their stores.
If you are trying to buy a dress, you can purchase it without touching anything. In fact, the need to enter a store is gone – a mirror could be on the storefront. You can virtually swipe through options – colours, styles, etc – through hand movement: you don’t have to touch it. You can purchase using your mobile phone through a QR code.
So, everything happens contactless. This is one aspect of gaining the customer’s confidence to come back into stores.
We can also help retailers downsize their retail space – maybe they’re struggling with rent prices or the size of the store or they can have only a few racks of clothes displayed in a small store. Our mirror can help them digitally display what we like to call an endless Aisle.
Customers can try-on virtually, purchase and get it delivered home.
MI Academy: a new tech implementation can be daunting at best. What advice do you have for a retailer that knows they can’t sit on their hands, but fears the repercussions of making a bad or pre-mature investment?
Chandan: Being a new technology, we’ve been facing this problem on the other end – people aren’t comfortable with new tech. Retailers are scared to try it, and they won’t know whether they like it or not, or if it’s even needed. Nobody is willing to take the risk in terms of trialling new tech, unless they know it’s a proven solution.
So what I have to say to retailers is this: you don’t get to know until you try it.
The benefit of working with a startup like us is that retailers can get on the front foot. They get very first releases and, a very discounted ratee. We are here to help retailers during this time, giving them free trials. This gives them a bit of confidence to try it with their customers and get real-time feedback. And then they make a decision whether they want to, you know, invest in it or not.
MI Academy: Great advice! We know you’re launching something special soon – could you tell us about that?
Chandan: In the next couple of months, we are launching Marketplace, which will be the world’s first virtual try-on marketplace. So everything in everything that sells on the marketplace, people will be able to try before they buy.
We are also trying to build a personalised catalogue. When you go into a website and the catalogue shows models wearing sunglasses, or T-shirts, or whatever. You’ll be able to upload your picture and replace the whole catalogue with different images. You become the model!
A huge thanks to Chandan for his time!
Do you feel like Mary?
If you want to make the leap into new tech, but aren’t sure where to go next, send us a message!
Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is known as one of Australia's leading digital marketing futurists and the brains behind Milk It Academy – A research-based training firm to advance marketers skills into new school digital leaders and company innovators. For over a decade Alita has worked with global brands including SAP, Experian, SEMrush, TS14+, Estee Lauder, Myer, Power Retail, & Online Retailer.