4 Ways Retailers Are Prepping for the Digital Age

4 Ways Retailers Are Prepping for the Digital AgeLast year, Americans spent more than $10 trillion shopping — enough to buy more than 2,000 aircraft carriers. Yet the experience of going into a retail store has remained relatively unchanged. While e-commerce has certainly employed more sophisticated methods of grabbing your attention and bringing you products you want, brick and mortar retailers are still struggling to find their place in the new digital age.

When Microsoft released the motion-sensing camera Kinect two years ago, critics hailed it as one of the first consumer gaming products with the potential to cross over to mainstream use. We see a bright future for the Kinect and retail is one area where its technology could be use to usher in the store of the future. So how could the Kinect, or another camera device, be used?





Do you remember the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise heads to the Gap? Cruise’s character is on the run and needs to find a new set of clothing to mask his identity. As he enters the Gap (because there will absolutely be Gaps in 2054), his eyes are scanned and his identity is revealed. Holographic spokespeople called Cruise earlier in the movie by his name as he was bombarded by 3D ads.

This is exactly the type of customer experience that Toovio, a brand marketing startup, aims to offer its clients. Toovio’s CEO Josh Smith calls it “offer orchestration” and his company is building technology that will allow brands to communicate with customers at checkout, kiosk, and on their way out the door. Your phone’s GPS will give up your location and then when you arrive, you’ll be served up a personalized deal.




The Swedish retailer Ikea is known for their high sense of style for those on a budget. But for anyone who’s spent hours waiting in line only to discover they’ve picked the wrong item, three fellows from California built an app for their wives that would be perfect for the impatient.

The Ikea Now app lets shoppers visualize exactly how a piece of furniture would appear before they buy it. Using the smartphone’s camera, you aim it at a space in your interior and then pulling from Ikea’ mobile catalogue, the item you select “appears” into the photo. This makes it easier to decide exactly which Swedish-named armchair is going to be right for your collection. Free



A P P A R E L from Normal Normals on Vimeo.

French design collective Normals created one of the first ever physical/digital hybrid clothing items. Called “Apparel,” the garment stitches together a mixture of augmented reality, personal data, and custom applications to create a “wearable avatar.”

For clothing retailers, this represents a possible future for trying on garments. Rather than taking a stack of clothing back to the dressing room, you could take one digitally-enabled garment and then later head online to create a bespoke customizable look.

“What will be the point of fabricating the same objects in multiple colors and shapes if you can simply display anything you want over them and change every 5 seconds?,” the creators asked. New creative methods like this point to the idea that the shopping experience doesn’t need to be static but can be a dynamic interaction between a brand and its customer.

Jamin Warren
Jamin Warren
Jamin Warren is the founder of videogame arts and culture company Kill Screen. Formerly a culture reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he has been an advocate for game culture and has been featured in the New Yorker, New York Times, Paris Review and others. Jamin has worked with Museum of Modern Art in New York, is a frequent contributor to NPR, and has spoken at SXSW, the New York Film Festival, XOXO, and more. He lives in Brooklyn.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/billy.chu Billy Chu

    Thanks for mentioning IKEA Now. We’re not affiliated with IKEA in any way. Just 3 nerds from CA who saw a problem and built a solution and had our 3 iPhone loving wives test it for simplicity