View Slideshow

Oak Labs Inc. just went global.

The San Francisco company, maker of the interactive Oak Mirror, this week went international with the announcement that German retailer Gerry Weber International AG has picked up its mirror for use by its Taifun women’s brand.

The company’s portfolio includes Gerry Weber, Taifun, Samoon by Gerry Weber and Hallhuber. The business totals 1,270 company-owned stores, 270 franchised doors and more than 2,500 shops-in-shop.

“By using one of the latest technological advances for the retail sector, we offer the increasingly connected customer a unique shopping experience,” said Gerry Weber International chief information officer Michel Feurich.

The launch this week was in Hamburg, with another store opening with the mirror in Munich next week. Additional rollouts will follow, with six stores currently committed to the technology, although Oak Labs cofounder and chief executive officer Healey Cypher called the relationship with the retailer evolving and that the six stores could be just the beginning.

Healey founded the company along with Darren Endo, Michael Franklin and Flynn Joffray in 2015. The company’s touchscreen mirror lets shoppers select their fitting room lighting, find out more information about the items they’re trying on and request different sizes or colors. That latter function is sent to store employees via the Oak Associate app, which streamlines the oft-used process of associates using radio to communicate with one another. They can also send messages to the customer via the app.

The Oak Labs technology on the back end helps retailers get smarter about what and how their customers are shopping in what Cypher described as “next-level analytics.” Retailers can make conclusions based on what people are trying on versus what they’re actually purchasing, will make recommendations based on real-time inventory levels in store and interact with consumers based specifically on what they’ve brought into the fitting room.

“What it’s allowing for is these experiences based on customer taste and using really deep data and not requiring them to have to say ‘This is me. This is what I like,’” Cypher said.

Cypher and his team offer an interesting perspective on the future of retail and it’s one that believes in brick-and-mortar as the richest mines of data. Getting retailers to understand technology’s purpose in stores, rather than looking at it as gimmicks to draw people in, is key.

“Most technology companies in retail make a pretty big mistake and that is they try to sell things for the novelty of it,” said Cypher. “‘Hey, this is a cool new mirror’ or ‘this is a cool new hologram.’ We care about really one thing: ROI. For every dollar you spend with us, we want you to be making at least $5 back.”

Cypher said more partnerships with retailers are on the way this year, but Oak Labs is also thinking bigger, longer term, with an emphasis on what it can do for shopping centers. The Oak Mirror is currently part of an in-store ecosystem, but the bigger picture for retail goes beyond four walls and on to shopping centers.

The company earlier this year joined an accelerator program put together by Westfield Labs and R/GA.

“One of the things that we are really, really betting on is that select group of REITs and mall owners that truly get it,” Cypher said. “And there’s some obvious trends we’re seeing. B+ and lower malls are dying and A- and higher properties are crushing it. The reason those A- and higher malls are doing well is they’re really investing in the experience and there’s no question in my mind the future of retail will be a software-defined future. That’s not to say it will be all touch screens but it will be a software experience in the same way Tesla built cars.”

While retail is the focus now for Oak Labs, Cypher said, “There is a wide, wide open field when it comes to connected experiences.”