A former Amazon exec’s startup is running a test in a Manhattan Beach, CA Macy’s that mashes up digital screens, mobile and some old-school warehouse ideas to rethink the shopping experience.
In a nutshell, Hointer’s Whoosh program allows a retailer to focus on front of house being a real, tactile version on an online apparel website, while all the stock is in the back. So instead of having stacks of the same SKU in different colors and sizes, there’s one out front. That allows much more to be merchandised out front.
Shoppers use their phones or tablets to browse, using mobile apps, and order what they want to a dressing room, including the same item in multiple sizes. Once they get into the dressing room, a tablet in there is used to check in and get the clothes delivered. They drop in by a chute – basically just a knockout in the dressing room wall to the store room in behind.
If what they try on doesn’t fit, shoppers can order a different size via the tablet, without getting dressed again. What they don’t like or need, they drop into a second chute.
It’s interesting, and goes to the heart of the value of bricks and mortar versus online shopping – the desire to actually pick up, touch or even try on products. People don’t need to see a replacement laser printer cartridge before they order it online. A swimsuit for women is quite another matter.
Hointer says a key is keeping the costs down, suggesting a retrofit is very inexpensive. That probably ignores a bunch of soft costs of staffing time reorganizing a floor layout, putting someone in the back, training, e-commerce integration and on and on, but the idea seems to have some general merit.