Hointer: In-Store Tech Targets Male Shoppers
US apparel retailer Hointer has pioneered a mobile-enhanced flagship store in Seattle that fuses the convenience and privacy of online shopping with the touch-and-feel product allure of bricks-and-mortar destinations.
While discussions around in-store tech usually focus on its capacity for sharing and socialising, at Hointer’s pilot store, the key tech tricks – near field communication (NFC), QR codes and robotics – are being deployed to facilitate a more discreet and speedy experience.
Using Hointer’s free smartphone app, shoppers scan NFC-enabled clothing tags to select the jeans they wish to try on, which are then delivered to the changing rooms via a system of tensioned tubes and cables (the current number of NFC-enabled devices stood at 6.1% globally in 2012 and is forecast to double in 2013). Customers without NFC-enabled phones will be prompted to scan an item’s QR code to select their size. Covering absolutely all bases, customers without a phone can call on sales associates to scan items on store-supplied devices, or borrow a device to shop independently.
Once they’ve made a selection, a chute delivers items into the fitting room; another takes them out. Taking the notion of a private retail seamlessly to its conclusion to make a purchase, customers can simply swipe their credit card through a reader in the fitting room, put the jeans in a bag and walk out.
This fast-track, non-invasive mode of shopping is particularly geared towards male consumers, whom Hointer believes are frequently deterred by long queues and over-eager shop assistants. At this store, they can try and buy denim without ever interacting with another person, although there are tablet-wielding staff on the shop floor should they want more support or styling advice. The system debuted in December 2012.
Founder and chief executive Nadia Shouraboura (who, incidentally, is the former head of supply chain and fulfilment technologies at Amazon.com) told Stylus that customers’ acceptance of Hointer’s mobile-enabled system was rather unexpected. “I remember the challenges of early e-commerce days, when customers didn’t trust us with their credit cards or on-time shipping, so at Hointer we prepared for years of slow adoption. I’m so glad we were wrong.”
Technological perks and pedigrees aside, according to Shouraboura, Hointer’s strategy is very much focused on the product. “We make sure that technology is so easy that it disappears and lets customers focus on discovering apparel.” The retailer has plans to open similar stores in Northern California and Las Vegas later in 2013.
For more on multi-channel retailing, see Redefining the Department Store: Digital Innovations and In-Store Interactive. Meanwhile, retail concepts specifically geared towards male shoppers are further explored in How to Sell to Modern Men, The Gender Divide: Online and Modern Anthology’s Man Things.