Forward-looking retailers no longer are combating the continual rise of online shopping, but increasing in-store engagement and sales by leveraging more interactive digital tools and technologies.
Aéropostale, a mall-based apparel retailer for teens, is upping the ante on its brick-and-mortar experience with a new concept store, which was unveiled at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, Long Island, on Oct. 19, 2012. Featuring interactive fitting rooms and iPad self-service stations, the new store was developed to “inspire a more solid emotional connection with our teen audience,” Anthony McLoughlin, Senior Director of Interactive Marketing for Aéropostale, told Retail TouchPoints.
Following extensive qualitative and survey-based research of its core demographic of teenagers 13 to 17 years old, Aéropostale embraced the iPad as the device of choice to address shoppers’ growing interest in using technology to shop.
To help create a stronger connection between the brand and its shoppers in the new store, Aéropostale partnered with Usablenet, a multichannel technology company, to place four iPad kiosks strategically throughout the store. Shoppers can use these devices to build their own outfits and email their creations to friends, family and themselves.
“We want to be a part of the conversations our target audience has online, via mobile devices and in stores,” McLoughlin said. “We also want to create relevant brand experiences for our customers: that’s the vision at the core of this concept. To have that relevant and emotional impact on teens, we needed to create a strategy and use technology that allows them to engage with us on their terms. We’re not just using tactics to drive sales; we’re using strategies that are consumer-centric to drive engagement and eventually create brand ambassadors.”
Aéropostale shoppers also can use the iPads to shop on the mobile-optimized brand e-Commerce site and even scan in-store bar codes to learn more about items, read reviews and receive complementary product recommendations. Curated collections developed by brand stylists also are available on the iPad, creating more educational and interactive shopping experiences.
“Our initial research indicated that not only do Millennial consumers want more choice, they also want to be more in control,” McLoughlin explained. “However, they also want to be curated to and feel that we’re introducing new styles and items they wouldn’t find in their day-to-day lives.”
By providing instant access to the e-Commerce site and offering the chance for shoppers to have items shipped to their homes, Aéropostale more efficiently can connect the brick-and-mortar and online shopping experiences. Moreover, ensuring item availability across touch points will help the retailer save sales, McLoughin noted, even if specific items or sizes aren’t available in the store.
While the Roosevelt Field concept store is “very much a test location,” according to McLoughlin, he reported that Aéropostale is eager to review performance and receive initial responses to the technology to help pave the way for future investments. “We then can pinpoint how important this kind of experience is to our audience and make necessary adjustments before we expand to other stores.”
“From a consumer standpoint, the new mobile experience is very seamless,” McLoughlin added. “Mobile technology is very intuitive to how teens interact with their peers and their communities. Brands that acknowledge this trend and become a part of the conversations consumers are having with friends and social graphs will be the brands that have a lasting impact.”
The Aéropostale team and GH+A Design, a retail design consulting firm, established the store interior to convey the best of New York City style. Exposed brick, white fixtures, dark wood and dynamic lighting embellish the entire store. Each dressing room has a décor inspired by a New York City neighborhood: East Village, Park Slope, Soho, West Village and Williamsburg.