I was just reading a blog about the mistakes that JC Penney made trying to rebrand and the failure of the new CEO to listen or plan – see story here. It did get me thinking that out of all the retail stores around, clothing is ripe for innovation.
Not just innovation in the actual clothes, like smart jackets & socks, but the actual retailing of clothes. For the majority of things that you drive to a store and buy, you can just as easily go online and buy. Clothes though have always been different. You have to be able to try them on, feel the material, see what the colors really look like or how something just hangs on you.
Last week I ordered a swimsuit from Macy’s – mainly because trying on swimsuits is an exercise in torture anyway and also because the one that was on sale wasn’t available in-store. So I paid the extra $10 shipping grudgingly only to have the darn thing arrive and not fit. Smart me thinks I will just pop on down to the local store and exchange it for a different size. No, no, no. They don’t have any of a different size at the store, but they can order it online for me. Sure, except I only get refunded the price I paid, the in-store price of the item is more than the online price and even if I get them to match the online price I will have to pay shipping again! WHAT?
Well don’t you know that Macy’s stores is a different company from Macys.com? No I didn’t as I am trying to buy a swimsuit and not make selections of stock for my 401k. So I was actually lucky that the sales assistant was willing to match the online price. This just blew my mind – in this day of mobile and ‘show rooming’ and AMAZON, a major brand with a lot of high street locations is acting like it is 2005. Your online and physical shopping experience should be seamless to the consumer. I don’t care if your online website is owned by China, as long as I can buy online, return in-store and not feel like I am being ripped off. They should be playing up the advantages of having all these retail locations, not punishing us for going to them. Lesson learned – only shop at physical location with smartphone in hand to find coupons and price matches with online retailers – including the one you are currently in!
Anyway, even that was not really where I think the innovation needs to happen to really blow open the clothing retail experience. What we need is a way to be able to try on those online clothes at home. There have been starts and stops as various retails have tried to roll out measuring machines where you can go in, get a 360 degree profile and then use that online, but that profile is only good a for a little while and who wants to go back and get measured every 2 months?
What you want is a way to measure at home and have that saved to an online profile where you can then see the clothes on your virtually. The Kinnect app from Xbox already does a good job for some of the fitness apps of showing you on-screen in 3D in real time. Merge that technology with a virtual tape measure and you might get something that consumers will use.
At the end of the day it has to be quick and easy and ACCURATE!!! The retailer would need to actually scan each item and each size of an item to get the correct measurements in the system initially, but think of the money you save in not having to issue as many refunds and how much more sales you make!