TO APP OR NOT TO APP?

Social media campaigns, smart material technology, robot services, app usage and Wi-Fi issues – it’s our weekly update on what’s hot and what’s not on Planet Retail.

Fit for a bot? Need a different size but too embarrassed to leave the fitting room? Macy’s in NYC is introducing fitting room bots so customers can request different sizes, via a tablet, without even popping their heads round the curtain! The requested garment then whooshes down through a chute into the fitting room, so you can stay naked and nobody will be any the wiser. Ex-Amazon robotics guru Dr. Nadia Shouraboura at Hointer has developed the technology. So far it has been successfully trialled in the male-only denim store in Seattle, so no doubt it will be popular with the boys – but will the ladies take to fitting bots?

#RIDENIM No bots for River Island as the brand is tapping into the very human romance of the summer season with a social media campaign on Twitter showing 3 photos of a couple in love. Your job is to use your imagination for “what happened when Amelie met Sid” and Tweet it using the hash tag #RIDENIM. Then, the plot thickens as there are 2 more couples involved – this one will run and run as the summer love for denim continues unabated. 100 points for a double denim emoji on Instagram! Is this going to be the Nescafe Gold Blend love story of 2015?

On yer bike! Do you need your head examined? The answer may be yes if you are a bike rider, skier or horse-riding fanatic. You come off once or twice, your helmet gets a bashing (but still looks ok), so people tend to carry on instead of replacing it, unaware that the helmet structure might have been irrevocably damaged and unable to protect you next time. A new magic material is coming out that will show any changes and the impact of a fall on the helmet by changing colour, which tells you it’s time to get a new one or, if it’s red, that you need to get your head examined for a concussion. Good to see fashion and safety working together!

Apps are for chats Apps are a big budget question as research shows that only a small percentage of people use retail apps on a regular basis. As the millennials say, “apps are for chats” and the web is for shopping. Apps are a headache for retailers with the constant worry that your app is out of date or not in sync with the latest phone the moment you’ve launched it. A study shows that the most loyal customers will use it, but they’ll use your improved responsive web store even more happily, saving the brand rather a lot of cash. Grocers report the highest use of mobile shopping apps as people shop for food while on the train or during their commute, so expect them to take up iBeacon location-based ads first, utilising the fact that the shoppers already have the apps. Google is betting on grocer app use with its new beacon protocol Eddystone – released to improve geo-location services for grocers like Tesco and Waitrose. See the video here for a great (and short) intro to the new kid on the beacon block.

Jamming is scamming Jamming your customers’ Wi-Fi in stores or hotels? Don’t. Do you know what’s being done in your name on the shop floor or in your pub chain? Smart City Networks in the USA got a massive fine for disabling Wi-Fi hotspots and forcing customers to use the company’s own (expensive) connection. For retailers, hotels and event spaces this is a big no-no and the regulators have come out loud and clear against ‘jamming’. This is not an uncommon practice in the UK and mainland Europe so check whether your company does this, as it’s often not widely known to senior management. Better safe than sorry.