Reinventing Retail: Hointer, Seattle
Imagine a store with a back staff of robots, where items appear, almost magically, in the fitting room. A store where customers can pay for merchandise without interacting with a single salesperson. You can stop imagining …check out Hointer, an apparel (mostly men’s jeans) shop in Seattle. A second location is set to open by the end of April, at Stanford Mall, in Palo Alto, Calif.
Founded and headed up by Nadia Shouraboura, the former head of supply chain and fulfillment technologies for Amazon.com, Hointer is one of the most buzzed-about retail start-ups in some time. Located near Seattle’s University District, the store combines the best features of online and brick-and-mortar to reinvent the shopping experience. Shouraboura describes her concept simply as “the micro-warehouse with mobile control.”
Here’s how Hointer works: Before shopping, customers download the Hointer app. As they walk around the store, they scan the QR codes on the merchandise tags with their smartphones. As customers select an item and the proper size and color, the product is dropped into a virtual shopping cart. (All of the clothing on display is hung from the ceiling, making the item easy to scan and to examine.)
Once the customer is finished selecting merchandise, he clicks the “try on” feature on the app and is sent to a designated fitting room. The app sends a message to the stockroom, where a robotic system (from Germany) finds the requested items and “delivers” the goods to the appropriate fitting room.The company isn’t revealing any of the details of how this process works. But it is designed to take 30 seconds or less.
Using the app, the customer can request a new size or style directly from the fitting room, with the requested merchandise delivered promptly. Passed-over merchandise is discarded into a designated bin, and it is automatically removed from the virtual shopping cart. (There are two chutes, one for items in and one for items out.)
The app allows Hointer to track everything in real-time and also lets customers rate clothing. Brands can then access that data via Hointer’s portal to find out such information as what items customers are trying on but not buying.
Shouraboura earned a PhD in mathematics from Princeton University and worked for several startups before joining Amazon, where she spent eight years. She has big plans for Hointer, which features a variety of brands, from Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman to 7 for All Mankind and True Religion. Although the selection is weighed heavily to men’s denim, the mix has been expanded to include some accessories and a smattering of women’s items, with more on the way.
Two more Hointer pilot stores are slated to open by summer, in downtown Seattle and Las Vegas. Shouraboura is looking to share some parts of the company’s back-end system with others. In an open letter to retailers on the company’s website, she writes:
“We can now report that in the pilot store we have reduced our footprint, eliminated piles, and avoided shrinkage, but the best part is that most customers told us that they loved the experience and had fun shopping. We started to work with several exceptional retailers, using our technology to re-invent their stores."
At a time when retailers are debating on how to reinvent the in-store shopping experience, Shouraboura offers a way forward. As she writes on the company’s site: “Our retail road is also crystal clear:
1) We need a power tool in our customer’s hands to rival the convenience of the online shopping cart;
2) We need an in-store backend system to take control and reduce inventory across all stores; eliminate the darn shrinkage and easily do other fun things (like same-day shipping);
3) We need to free up our sales associates to let them spend more time advising customers and arm them with even more information than one can get online; and
4) We need to get rid of piles and clutter to allow customers to fully discover products, making online browsing hollow and pathetic in comparison.”
Since there as so many competitors, one has to reinvent not just its product but there marketing positioning as well.
Goldfish brand swims with e-commerce stream
NORWALK, Conn. — Pepperidge Farm has launched a new website that will enable customers to create personalized packages of its Goldfish brand crackers.
The site offers users an array of fun options to personalize Goldfish packages. Users can add their own photos and custom messages, and even pick their favorite Goldfish cracker colors to create special combinations.
With special themes rolling out to coincide with major holidays, consumers have many ways to enjoy a Goldfish My Way experience. Consumers can choose from a 4.5 ounce customized gift box, 1.0 ounce customized party favors, or single-serve themed party cups. The site, www.GoldfishMyWay.com, is easy to navigate, and the high-quality packages are guaranteed to spread smiles during holidays, birthday parties, school and sporting events and every occasion in between.
"We love spreading smiles through the iconic Goldfish brand," said Jared Konstanty , SVP general manager snacks. "It’s our pleasure to bring new ways for our fans to engage with the product and personalize the way they enjoy their favorite crackers, and we are so excited and honored to be part of people’s celebrations throughout the year."
The Goldfish My Way e-commerce experience was developed in strategic partnership with True Action, who collaborated with its eBay Inc. partners, Magento, GSI Commerce and PayPal.
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Newell Rubbermaid to open design center in Michigan
ATLANTA— Newell Rubbermaid announced plans to open a new design center by early 2014 in Kalamazoo, Mich. This will enable Newell Rubbermaid to add depth in new design specialties, join a strong local presence of design-led companies including Herman Miller , Steelcase, Whirlpool, Stryker and Wolverine, as well as participate in a growing educational community that includes Western Michigan University.
"Great design and creativity is the difference between a standard product and one that is beautiful in every way—and drives consumer preference," said Chuck Jones , Newell Rubbermaid ‘s chief design and research and development officer. "Our new design center will be a best-in-class facility that enables us to attract the best international design talent to work on a wonderful portfolio of leading brands. Our brand studios and immersion labs will foster growth ideas as designers collaborate with marketing and R&D on great innovation. This is an exciting new phase for the company and we are appreciative that Governor Rick Snyder , the State of Michigan, Southwest Michigan First, the City of Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University have chosen to partner with us."
The new 40,000-square-foot facility will employ up to 100 design professionals, and has been carefully planned to foster creativity and maximize the sharing of ideas and technologies among the company’s brands. A large, open studio space will provide the ideal environment for designers to collaborate using advanced software tools. Immersion labs for the company’s priority business segments will enable design and marketing teams to evaluate product prototypes and imagine the possibilities of future product roadmaps. The company is investing in new talent with specialist design skills to work alongside the existing industrial and graphic design teams.
" Newell Rubbermaid made a significant commitment to design with the hiring of Chuck Jones last September," added Mark Tarchetti, Newell Rubbermaid ‘s chief development officer. "Having a purpose-built center of excellence will place us in an exclusive club of design-driven companies that recognize great design is a competitive advantage."
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