How Fashion Brands Use Apps to Offer a Smart Omni-Channel Retailing?

The black new feature of today’s customers is that their shopping behavior cannot be predicted in the same way as it was done in the past. And changing customer behaviors requires a change in brands’ communication and marketing strategies, too. Omni- channel marketing, at this point, has become the emerging style to reach the customer while surrounding him or her via the best timely information and service.

With the help of the technological advances and especially those in digital communication, customers can experience the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase stages at once no matter the order or sequence. They can search for the product they want to buy; or they can just purchase and comment on it even with no pre-purchase phase formed by brand awareness, knowledge, consideration stages on their mind. And here, the fast and quick offerings of mobile applications cannot be underestimated.

According to the MIT’s recent report, “Beyond The Checkout Cart” for the year 2013, there were 1.1 trillion dollars of store sales influenced by the web where 12 billion dollars of retail sales were made on smart phones. Eighty percent of the store shoppers checked all the prices online, consequently the e-retail sales in the US were recorded as 252 billion dollars for 2013.

I would like to summarize the tips for using apps related experience, but before it is better to recall the main idea of omni-channel marketing: to think from the customers perspective and be aware of their needs and ready to meet them. To do so, your brand’s communication strategies must answer the questions, like, what is the a regular shopper doing while shopping time, which habits he has, what are the unmet needs, whether he checked all prices inside or near to the store, whether he shares his wishes or complaints on social media, and so forth.

After considering those points, now the turn is to touch them via your apps to connect customer quickly with a brand offerings. As Fashionbi experts suggest, mobile apps for omni-experience can be divided into three as at store’s window, in store and in fitting room.

To begin with store window experience, apps can be used to provide customers with entertainment and ease due to no salesperson pressure. Here, you might have heard of Ray Ban ’s virtual mirrors commanded via the touch points on the store windows. As you might remember, it is not an innovative act for the brand because the concept was formerly launched in 2008 to provide brand’s online visitors with trials of the glasses via a cam application in their pc’s. A similar content was offered by Bloomingdale's customers while giving them also the printed pictures if they want. In this way, Bloomingdale's also provided entertainment during trials according to the comments in the New York Daily News.

The same concept was also used by Tissot collections as well. The brand provided customers with trials of watches without wearing them in 2010 at Selfridges London and in 2011 at Harrods stores’ Windows.

Moreover, there is Triumph 's offering an innovative experience for its clients in London. This magical omni-touch provided the customer to be able to see a real model in the Essence lingerie collection captured on the store window via their iPads where the lingeries were simply represented on mannequins.

For the in store experience, you can use apps to provide easy product search and easy purchase. It is known that although many shoppers compare products and buy online, some still prefer to pick up the goods in person from actual stores. For example, Oasis, an apparel retailer, uses apps to prevent the customers from waiting in the purchasing line. Sales assistants via iPads available on shop floor and changing rooms are available for helping customers to check size, colors and styles which are not in the store. With this system they established in 2011, it was recorded that twenty percent of daily purchases were done online.

Marks & Spencer ’s “At Home” app was again designed to be a free iPad app which was the second app of the brand, and launched in September 2012. The app has focused on home items from M&S catalogue and provided realistic views of how that product would look in customer’s own home. This visual digital journey in the store can also be shared on Facebook or Twitter to ask for a second opinion about the product.

In this way, customers can still maintain their in-store habits while provided with more channels to be integrated with the brand. As Macy’s, one of the leading omni-channel using retailers, focuses on, the aim is to “close the gap between, store, desktop and mobile.”

Lastly, the fitting room experience, as its name implies, is simply about innovative approaches for virtual fitting and social shopping in the dressing rooms. In this way, many customers who do not have enough time or who do not want to waste time for trying on off processes can also be satisfied.

With the help of Augmented Reality (AR) and/or Natural User Interface (NUI) Technologies, for instance, customer’s gestures, voice, other natural user face elements can be integrated into the shopping process within an innovative and funny engagement.

In the fitting rooms, customers can find “magic mirrors” which are able to transform into a digital screen to represent multimedia content for different products and ranges. Thanks to RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology, the RFID labels can be inserted into the garments and the garment related stock and quality control can also be pursued.

Burberry ’s biggest flagship store in Asia, at Shanghai Kerry Centre, can be shown as a real nice example. As described above, customers entering the dressing room are welcomed by magic mirrors which helps them to feel special and to integrate with social commerce.

Creating a unique identity for your brand is not only about your products and their simple marketing processes, you need to put some technological innovation into your marketing paths and come up with new strategies to communicate with your customers. Namely, now it is time for not just communicating with, but also surrounding them as the phrase is. Providing easy, fast, relax and entertaining brand experience to your customers would be the best way as an omni-channel strategy. And the apps would be your bridge to reach the customers, especially those from the new generation.