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Once only plausible in the world of science fiction, today Americans simply ask a question aloud and receive an answer via …
Once only plausible in the world of science fiction, today Americans simply ask a question aloud and receive an answer via a digital device, whether it be smartphones, smart speakers or smart refrigerators. In fact, 35.6 million Americans now use voice-enabled devices monthly, up a whopping 128.9 percent from last year, according to eMarketer. This impressive growth also offers potential to retailers and brands looking to profit on the experiential shopping wishes of consumers.
Last month, for example. Estee Lauder introduced voice-enabled, personalized, nighttime skincare regimens for customers using Google Home. Voice experiences can unlock another level of personalization to help brands reach the next generation of customers, according Tricia Nichols, the beauty giant’s vice president of global consumer engagement. “Through our collaboration with Google, we are expanding our omnichannel efforts to go beyond stores and online to in-home,” she says.
Calvin Klein has also jumped on the bandwagon collaborating with Amazon Fashion last month to launch Echo devices that aid shoppers in the dressing rooms of its pop-up shops in New York and Los Angeles. Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s e-commerce division, also sees the potential in using voice as a way to learn about customers while helping them shop. “Voice is the next big way for us to be able to leverage data from a person’s car, home, or device,” he stated at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival in October. “It will allow [consumers] to shop in a very conversational way with a robot, in the same way they would with a specialist on a showroom floor of a retailer. And that robot will know you as well as your mom or dad.”
While it’s only a matter of time before retailers of all tiers make the jump to voice technology shopping options, Michael Hazelden, senior vice president of product strategy at Order Dynamics, recommends a little caution before jumping in with a new technology. “There is much to learn and, before they take the plunge, retailers need to make sure they understand the technology, have the right framework in place and know what they want to accomplish by using it,” he says.
Retail isn’t going cold turkey on brick-and-mortar concepts just yet. Pop Box, a pop-up format that opened in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in late October, provided a showroom experience for subscription service suppliers during the holiday season. The idea being that such services lack a store setting where consumers can get to know the brands on a more touch-and-feel-before-you-buy level. Participating brands included Cooper & Kid (boxes with projects for dads to do with their kids), Home Chef (a meal-delivery service), PupJoy (artisanal pet goods) and The RunnerBox (athletic gear), among others.
“Pop Box is a solution for how people want to shop in today’s new retail reality,” says Anne-Marie Kovacs, co-founder. Kovacs says customers were drawn to the “artsy and airy” vibe of the store, full of unique indie product assortments that many purchased as a holiday gift, in addition to signing up for the correlating subscription service for future deliveries. “Many of these brands benefited from allowing us to help them tell their story,” she says, adding, “We have trained brand ambassadors that are knowledgeable about each product and can provide demonstrations—something you don’t get online.” Kovacs says to be on the lookout for more Pop Box concepts going forward.
With nearly 30 years of experience buying, designing and manufacturing childreswear at mainstays like Joules and JoJo Maman Bebe, Mark Jeynes is branching out on his own. Debuting this month at Children’s Club, Jeynes has launched Me+Henry as another collection supported by his new agency Little Monsters, which brings European names to the U.S. market.
Jeynes chose to focus on boys’ apparel to help balance the girl-saturated market. “In all my years, I have heard and seen the constant comment about there not being enough good boys’ clothes,” he says. “Get a good boys’ collection and customers and stores stay loyal.”
Setting it apart from other boys’ collections, Jeynes designed clothes he could see himself walking the streets of London in with his English cocker spaniel Henry, the line’s namesake. The aesthetic reflects a preppy attitude, inspired by classic 1930s silhouettes for an overall sophisticated-yet-cool look. Available for newborns to age 10, the collection contains nearly 80 styles, ranging from $14 henleys and $16 polos to a variety of dress shirts in a range of sophisticated tones starting at $17. “I work with some amazing brands that really go for it with color, but for my own line I wanted to keep the color level as a more contemporary palette,” Jeynes says. “I am trying to make sure the line is just as good for those special occasions as it is running around in the garden.”