“I love technology, and I love new gadgets. I can no longer figure out how to use any of them, but I love them.”
– Jerry Zucker

If it’s shiny and new it must be good? Is digital technology in our shops more about the sizzle than the substance? Is investment in digital technology really about the brand statement than the actual facilitation of the higher sales and margin improvement?

As retailers begin to explore their digital retail offer, do they truly consider the reason for bringing digital aspects into their store, or are they simply following the trend? Is an interactive mirror in a fitting room truly going to engage with your target audience, creating sales and margin increase or is it simply a gadget to capture this digital buzz?

We asked this question as we recently headed down to fashion retailer, Mimco’s, new flagship boutique on Pitt Street. Ahead of its 20th birthday next year, the Australian retailer has collaborated with Telstra & Mandoe Media, to offer a tangible retail experience with hands-on digital technology.

Upon entering the store, you are greeted by a 360 degree projection ring with seamless inspirational content running above the merchandise throughout. From this moment you are aware you’re entering the digital realm. The focal point of the digital activities instore is the interactive touch table. The table (similar to a giant tablet) educates consumers around the brand values and acts as a point of inspiration with style advisory and live feed of the Mimco Instagram.

Mimco flagship 2

The main point of innovation here is the touch table’s ability to recognise products placed on it through the use of 2D barcodes and shape detecting cameras.

Placing a product on the table, the table plays the role of the shop assistant, detailing key selling points of the product, recommending add-ons based on style and trends.

At the launch of the store, Mimco’s managing and creative director, Cathryn Wills, spoke of how the Mimco woman craved a tangible retail experience with hands-on digital technology, and if this is the case, then the touch table certainly caters to this.

While some may still argue that the table is simply a gimmick; as a consumer interacting with it, we found the process highly engaging and encouraged us to pick up items we may have never considered before, simply to explore what information or style ideas the table provides. Whether you still get this buzz after several visits to the store is questionable, however by this point the interaction has created a relationship between you and the brand and you return to the store for the unique service offer and stronger understanding you have developed of the brand values and awareness of the product.

This case is a prime example of the importance of keeping a customer centric approach when developing a digital offer. Gimmicks and gadgets are great for buzz but ultimately if they are not focused specifically to your audience, this buzz is not sustainable and won’t convert into the desired return.

When it comes to digital retailing, retailers must integrate digital organically within their offer, not viewing it as a separate channel; truly catering to the needs of their consumers, adding value and planning a demonstrable ROI for their investment whilst building business sustainability.

Equally we can’t advocate the need for business innovation without complementing those that live this crusade.

Our complements to the team at Mimco.

Brian Walker is Founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group and can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or brian@retaildoctor.com.au.

First published on Inside Retail on the 26th of August 2015