Augmented Retail: the future for luxury brands
I’m at Holborn Circus in central London, on my way to meet Jonathan Chippindale, one of the founders of Holition, a luxury marketing firm that specializes in Augmented Retail.
Augmented retail is a technology that creates virtual environments for the retail industry. Just as in the world of real estate, where you can today easily ‘visit’ a property virtually, the technologies surrounding augmented retail will in the near future allow us to try on clothes virtually – smelling, feeling and hearing the fabric as if it were real.
Sounds pretty surreal, right? Well, that’s what I thought and why I want to find out more about this new sci-fi shopping technique. Holition serves a huge list of luxury clients, including Tissot, Dunhill, De Beers, Boucheron and Tacori and creates personalized interactive digital platforms to showcase luxury items such as watches and jewellery. These platforms are used not only by the brands but also in department stores like Harrods, Selfridges, Isetan and Bloomingdales.
More recently, they’ve also started focusing on clothing and on how to create environments in which customers can try on clothes virtually with full sensory experience.
I ask Jonathan how he came up with the idea of founding Holition and focusing on this Augmented Retail concept. “Consumers spend more time shopping online than in real shops nowadays,” he says, “and this has forced brands to re-evaluate their online strategy. E-commerce has taken over, but it’s a shift luxury brands never saw coming.
“And now you’re helping them to catch up.”
“That’s right. I founded Holition with two other entrepreneurs from the luxury retail segment, knowing how hard it was for premium retail and high-end fashion to embrace new technologies and engage e-consumers more effectively.”
“So augmented retail is the future of fashion and retail?” I ask.
“Definitely. This is only the start of a bright future for online retail and fashion. Premium retail and fashion have struggled to embrace this kind of digital technology because they carry decades, even centuries of tradition and they’ve been slower to adapt. Other segments have been quicker to adopt new technologies and they quickly outpaced luxury.”
“Is that also because it is more important to hold and feel a luxury product?”
“Exactly. That’s where we saw business opportunities,” says Jonathan. “The challenge was to make luxury brands step out of their comfort zone and their tradition of having clients coming into their beautiful stores.”
“So you are trying to push Augmented Retail as a tool that allows customers to engage with the product in a virtual space.”
“It’s not just about seeing the product online anymore. We are developing technologies that will let consumers smell products, hear fabrics and feel the heaviness of garments virtually. We’re looking at how to include haptic interfaces to our experiences to allow us to communicate multiple sensory experiences.”
“That means soon we could be sitting at home with a webcam and trying on a whole range of suits, shirts and shoes without ever entering a shop?”
“Yes, clothing really is the holy grail of augmented reality experiences. And it is not far off: five to 10 years and this will be a very accessible technology for everyone.”
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