Over the years, Bronto Summit has earned a reputation for featuring some of the most influential minds in commerce and retail – and this year was no different.
Retail innovator Uri Minkoff, co-founder and CEO of fashion giant Rebecca Minkoff, is often described as the most forward-thinking executive in the fashion business. His groundbreaking use of technology is revolutionizing retail operations and marketing like never before. On day two of Bronto Summit 2017, he took to the stage and delivered one of the most memorable keynote speeches in the event’s history.
Connecting With Consumers
Minkoff began his presentation by recalling the early days of the Rebecca Minkoff brand, its initial struggles and how he helped develop the company into one of the fastest-growing brands in the fashion industry.
The landscape of the fashion retail world was vastly different just 10 to 12 years ago. Established brands found favor over newcomers, and only a handful of people decided everything from when you went to market to how you could interact with customers.
Minkoff talked about how that setting not only made it difficult for new companies, such as Rebecca Minkoff, but how it promoted an environment that failed to celebrate individuality or recognize the importance of providing a welcoming shopping experience. And consumers were most certainly not encouraged to share their voice.
“Our world has been created by one-size-fits-all, or the 18-34 demo … and that’s all a lie,” said Minkoff. “At the end of the day, we are all humans, we are all individuals and we are all personal.”
Rebecca Minkoff set out to change all that, partially with the help of social media. As the first fashion brand to embrace Snapchat, Minkoff says it found social media platforms provided an invaluable opportunity for his brand to not only talk to consumers and forge relationships but to learn from them as well.
The desire to learn from consumers and deliver unique experiences based on their needs, Minkoff explained, is what helped shape the Rebecca Minkoff brand into what it is today.
He also shared how Rebecca Minkoff challenged the status quo with the introduction of its “See Now, Buy Now” initiative, which lets shoppers purchase the brand’s new seasonal fashions shortly after their runway debut.
Transforming the In-Store Experience
“Something was wrong with the store,” said Minkoff. “There is so much amazing power online. You can have a wish list, [the online store] can remember you, you can get advice, you can get recommendations, you can share things – none of that existed in stores.”
He shared how Rebecca Minkoff has carefully used technology to improve those aspects of the in-store shopping experience identified as consumer pain points, such as the awkward feeling customers can get when they are first approached by a sales associate in the store.
“All of a sudden, we realized the millennial consumer wanted to go down one of two tracks. She either wanted to be a VIP or be private and left alone.”
Rebecca Minkoff is solving that issue, however, by using technology to deliver a hyper-personalized shopping experience that bridges the gap between the online and offline experience – all while letting the customer control their shopping journey.
For example, the moment a customer walks into Rebecca Minkoff’s SoHo store, they’re greeted by an interactive wall display that shows them their top outfits. They can select multiple items to try on and continue shopping or leave the store altogether, receiving a text message when their fitting room is ready.
Once inside the fitting room, Minkoff explained how the store uses RFID tags to catalog everything brought into the dressing room and display the items on “smart mirrors.” Shoppers can request alternate sizes and can even select different lighting options while trying on clothes. They’re also offered product recommendations for the items they’ve selected and can command their entire shopping experience from the fitting room.
The use of “smart mirrors” has certainly earned Rebecca Minkoff a lot of media attention, but in listening to Minkoff speak, it’s clear that technology is used in service to the customer, rather than to reflect (no pun intended) the brand’s high-end status.
“When you walk into [our] store,” says Minkoff, “the first moment isn’t ‘What can I sell you?’ or ‘Why are you here today?’ The first moment is ‘Would you like something to drink?’ That’s the icebreaker. The screens are just there to help the customer. Now you’re having a shopping experience and controlling the whole store.”
But Minkoff’s vision for the future of fashion retail didn’t stop there. He also shared additional technologies Rebecca Minkoff is implementing. In December, the brand added a self-checkout component to select locations, allowing customers to take full control of their shopping journey and avoid, as he described it, the “Pretty Woman effect,” where a customer walks in and feels judged by the sales associate.
Looking Beyond the Store
Rebecca Minkoff’s use of technology doesn’t end with the store, though. Minkoff shared plans to introduce a “smart bag” pilot program later this year. Keeping in line with the brand’s desire to provide unique, consumer-focused experiences for its customers, these “smart bags” would offer benefits to the wearer, such as access to special sales or tickets to events and other unique opportunities based on who and where she is.
This gamification of the traditional handbag, Minkoff said, was inspired by last year’s Pokémon Go phenomenon and was another way of giving customers a reason to choose Rebecca Minkoff over competing brands.
Getting Smarter With Your Data
Data has not just helped Rebecca Minkoff better understand its customers but make smarter and more informed business decisions as well.
On stage, Minkoff shared how Rebecca Minkoff has integrated its analytics, retail and ecommerce information into one business intelligence platform and gave a live demonstration of how they are able to access their data quickly and easily with the help of Amazon Alexa. Forget waiting for someone to pull a spreadsheet from the database. Want to know the most popular item sold in the last 30 days? Just ask Alexa.
Data has helped improve the brand’s design as well. Minkoff recalled a particularly fascinating case where a leather jacket was taken into a fitting room 70 times in one week but never purchased. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the design of the jacket wasn’t resonating with customers, but because the data also showed that customers requested a different size each time it was tried on, they were able to attribute the issue to the fit of the jacket, not the design, and work to correct it.
In listening to Minkoff, one thing became abundantly clear – technology is not the reason for the brand’s success – it’s merely the vehicle. By using technology to finely tune the customer experience and challenge the status quo, Minkoff has stumbled upon a winning formula for his brand – and it’s one that others can learn from.
And while it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of incorporating such cutting-edge technology into your own plans, doing so kind of misses the point.
As Minkoff says, “We’re just humans interacting with other humans – it’s real relationships that win the day.”