NEW YORK — Inspired by young people and their use of technology, interactive services firm IconNicholson and designer Nanette Lepore have created a shopping experience that merges the digital and the real worlds.
Shoppers stand in front of a “magic mirror” and can send a photo or video of themselves to their MySpace page or to friends via e-mail or cell phone. The friends vote “yes” or “no” on the outfit and can text message back. The mirror displays the vote tally and messages.
The mirror could also be set up to display ratings and popularity of items sent from a Web site.
IconNicholson demonstrated the technology, which it calls Social Retailing, at the National Retail Federation conference here this week. Nanette Lepore said it hopes to install a more feminine version of the technology in a department store such as Bloomingdale’s or Saks Fifth Avenue in the next three to six months.
“If that is not viable, then we will seriously consider putting one of these in one of our stores, perhaps in Las Vegas or maybe Tokyo; we haven’t decided,” said Robert Savage, president of the firm and husband of designer Nanette Lepore. Savage said he plans to speak to department stores about the concept next week. The technology is ready to go, although the concept needs to be tested first to see how many people would use it, as well as other practical details, he added. The company also plans to tweak the design to fit the Nanette Lepore style. The mirror, for example, could be oval, he said.
“We believe in the future of social retailing,” he said, citing how shoppers in Tokyo text message each other and how his eight-year-old daughter plays with friends over the Internet. “I know Nanette likes to shop with her mother and sister. Her sister lives in Ohio; she can tell her sister to get online while she’s in the store and ask her what she thinks of this and that.” Or Lepore could use the technology to demonstrate how to wear her line to customers, he said.
The style-obsessed are already sharing photos of themselves in various outfits though fashion social networking sites such as MyStyleDiary and ShareYourLook, as well as sending photos of themselves to each other via cell phone and seeing what other people are wearing on Flickr and various streetwear blogs from around the world. This is one of the first concepts to bring a retailer and a brand into the phenomenon.
“We want to show we’re on the cutting edge of technology and understand how our customers think and it just makes sense to keep up with it,” Savage said. “But the beauty of this is that it’s a gimmick but it’s not a gimmick. You can really sell things through this.”
The IconNicholson demonstration used 10 liquid crystal display screens mounted behind mirrors. The mirror automatically recognized a garment via RFID, and recommended items to match. Show attendees voted at six kiosks, which were wired to the displays through an Ethernet cable. Similar kiosks could be set up in a store, so teens could shop at them together, see what others had purchased, or order items not in the store. An actual retailer might use a secure wireless or infrared network to reach the outside world instead, said IconNicholson’s chief technology officer Christopher Enright. IconNicholson was involved in the design and implementation of the technology at Prada’s SoHo store here, which at the time of its opening was one of the most technologically advanced designer stores in the world.