New York & Co.

Ambitious could be one of way of describing New York & Co. Inc.’s digital plans.

The company has several initiatives going as it plays catch-up with some of its tech-savvier retail competitors.

“I think as a retail industry we’ve been very behind the scenes in terms of understanding what it takes,” said Chau Banks, executive vice president, chief information officer and channel integration at New York & Co., of the work involved in implementing digital initiatives. “The path has taken us probably a little bit longer than some because we’ve not always been the first one out in terms of looking at new technology, but it’s moving very positive for us in terms of some of the results we’ve seen.

Banks spoke Wednesday during the annual Etail West conference in Palm Desert, which wraps up Thursday.

Technology is seen as a key tool as the company looks to reach and connect with its customers better across its base of 462 stores — one-third of those outlets — and online shop, the latter of which has seen 450 percent growth from $100 million in sales three-and-a-half years ago.

Part of improving customer connections is in relevant product with special collections.

The New York-based retailer said in February it would begin the rollout of collections designed around some of its most loyal customers. The first drew inspiration from research scientist and public health professor Dr. Roblena E. Walker, who has been shopping from the retailer for more than 20 years. In April, New York & Co. plans to announce a celebrity collaboration.

“Part of this is really beginning to create personas where a customer can associate with our brand in terms of the lifestyle and where she aspirationally wants to be able to evolve but really still be able to serve up affordable product for customers in our space,” Banks said.

Banks has largely served as a conduit between the New York & Co. board and internal executive teams since her arrival three-and-half years ago to help define a clear strategy for the business moving forward when it comes to implementing tech.

That has translated into significant investments in mobile commerce along with tests of in-store kiosks at nine U.S. stores, one of those in Burbank, Calif. Customers can use the kiosks to look up product information and do price scans.

Beacons is another area being tested in select stores, which has so far been seen as a traffic driver into doors with the retailer now looking at next steps.

With a customer base that skews from 18- to 45-year-olds, it’s a broad age range and for the younger or more digitally savvy customers, digital marketing via social networks is also being tested.

The prospects around subscription boxes, dynamic pricing and being able to nimbly change or extend sale pricing and bringing the outlet channel online are additional areas of exploration for the company.

Banks is also interested in virtual reality and augmented reality, the applications of which for New York & Co. could mean virtual fitting rooms, for example.

“It is about building a technology strategy or a game plan to have innovation as our top priority and that really means…investing and testing new technologies because as a 100-year-old retailer, we don’t want to continue to let technology get so far out of reach,” Banks said. “Technology is becoming more commercially available and really less expensive, so more affordable so we can take advantage and do some proof of concept and be able to roll things out more quickly than traditionally.”

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