Social Retailing

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 by Roberto Saracco

For someone the Social Retailing is the new wave of retail in certain areas, like cloths. You go in a mall, look at a nice window displaying that perfect dress and step inside to see how it fits. Today you may be wishing to be with your friends to have their first hand opinion but tomorrow your friends will be just a click away from your experience. The mirror in the fitting room reflecting your image will also be the window to let your friends peek at you, once you call them. Some shops (Prada on the Vth Ave in NY and some top department stores in Tokyo) already have installed these magic mirrors letting you select different colours without having to change the dress and see how it looks like in the mirror (it is actually a screen and the image is created by a computer receiving “your” image from a camera embedded in the mirror). This artificially created image can be exploited to let you turn around in front of the mirror and delay the projection on it so that you can see you turning around once you face the mirror.

Creating a social retailing is much more than just videoconferencing with your friends to show them how that dress is fitting you. It means involving your friend in the shopping experience. Letting them, as an example, to virtually fit that dress you have on, to suggest a different model or hue and see the difference.

In turns this requires to access information on what’s available at the store and rendering applications to try it virtually. It requires communications not just with you but also with the dress and the store inventory. That can be done, from a technological standpoint, already today (it is done in a few shops) but requires a different organisation in the retail support systems. They need to be open to interact with the customer. Now, once this step is taken, it won’t be long before this openness can be exploited (under a certain control from the shop management) also by other merchants that may take the opportunity of you being in the shopping mode to offer you something that is a perfect match to what you are fitting at the time.

An ecosystem may bloom on this and the seed, the aggregation, may well be the communication fabric and the various make believe applications.