By  on March 13, 2018

ARTEIXO, Spain — Zara is looking to press home its growing focus on its omnichannel synergies to shoppers with the planned launch of an augmented reality app geared to its Studio Collection.Dubbed Zara AR, and conceived by Self-Service cofounder and creative director Ezra Petronio, the shop-the-look app was unveiled in the chain's pilot store area at the Inditex headquarters here on Tuesday. It will be introduced in 120 Zara flagships on April 18, for a period of two weeks.After downloading the app and scanning a QR code, users point their smartphones at graphic signage markings on one of three dedicated points. Once activated, models Léa Julian and Fran Summers seemingly spring to life in seven- to 12-second sequences, parading looks from the line. They can be seen from the street, moving through an empty window, for instance, or Lilliputian size, twirling across the boxes used for online deliveries.The app features a tool for sharing the experience on social media, encouraging users to take and submit photos of the holograms.Beyond the surface retail-tainment value, the chain’s continued focus on customer-centric technology — the basis of its business model, as the pioneer of a fast-fashion concept built on a flexible, proximity-based supply chain — combined with its disciplined approach to expansion, should help solidify the Zara’s lead in a tough market, experts say.The technology could also serve as a real enabler for boosting online sales in both the fashion and home categories.“The remarkable thing about Zara is they’ve been at the top of the tree for such a long time and they’ve kept on innovating. They’re experimenting with different payment methods and self-service checkouts, eliminating paper receipts….I’m sure they’re looking at artificial intelligence, both in warehouse application and stores. They have always said, let’s be driven by what the customer wants and how the customers are going to buy more rather than maximizing the gross margin,” said George Wallace, chief executive officer of MHE Retail.“And because of their vision and concentration and investment in change — despite the fact that they were already the best — that’s what is standing out now. By using technology in a meaningful way, and concentrating on having fewer stores and bigger and better flagships, that absolutely plays to the way people are shopping.”Though the contrast with beleaguered competitor H&M “has become very stark over the past 12 months,” with companies including Gap, New Look, Arcadia also struggling to turn their businesses around, Zara still has its fair share of challengers, he cautioned, citing pure-player Asos as a leading example. The backdrop is also tricky, with consumers squeezed and young people less material minded and more attracted by experiences.Zara, which in January opened a temporary concept store in London’s Westfield focused on click-and-collect services while its flagship is being revamped, counts around 7,500 stores in 93 markets and 43 online markets.The chain, which produces around 60 percent of its garments in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, uses a centralized logistics platform to feed both the brick-and-mortar and online stores, with two fresh deliveries a week. (To get an idea of volumes, Inditex’s portfolio of brands, which includes Bershka, Pull & Bear and Massimo Dutti, produced around 1.3 billion garments in 2016, and Zara, as the group’s flagship brand, represents around two-thirds of the business.)In total Zara counts 10 centralized distribution hubs in Spain that deliver to its stores, and 19 online warehouses internationally, including three in the U.S.Aiding the chain’s agility is its grip on its inventory system. Zara has been fully radio frequency identification technology-integrated since 2016 - microchips are embedded in the security tags of garments - with Inditex gradually rolling out the technology to its other brands.

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