Using “Sci-Fi” Technology to Entice Gen-Y Customers

by Kate Enright

As high-street retailers clamber to gain new customer bases and retain existing, we see them going to new lengths and thinking outside the box. Cutting edge, integrated technologies are something that the high-street knows are evolving fast and know they must evolve along with in order to compete. In fact, some bigger retailers, such as Macy’s in the U.S have hit the ground running with innovative ideas that they hope are going to attract the biggest spenders in the marketplace, Generation Y.

Macy’s is a great example of this new wave of “futuristic” shopping and, although some techniques may ultimately turn out to be more like flash-in-the-pan gimmicks than long term integratable solutions, they truly are pulling out all the stops to encourage “Gen Y” customers to get offline and back into their stores. They have taken on an omni-channel approach to retailing, allowing consumers experience through all shopping channels from their bricks-and-mortar locations.


Macy’s will soon be introducing virtual mannequins, digital aisles, and cloud computing platforms in order to recommend products to their shoppers. They have realised that for Gen Y consumers; smartphones, tablets and social media are an integral part of daily life, and that fighting this won’t get them anywhere. They have clearly gone with the old motto of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. And from the online response it has received, I have no doubt but that it will be a resounding success.

Their chief stores officer Peter Sachse discusses the idea and premise behind digital mannequins, ‘Imagine if it is snowing, and we would like to show you on that virtual mannequin our best outerwear.’ What a marketing technique, being able to alter your in-store advertising and promotions in real-time according to weather and other environmental changes. Virtual mannequins such as the one he discusses here are to be tested in sections of the store devoted specifically to young and tech savvy customers.

Along with that, Macy’s customers will soon be able to digitally pay their bills, search customer reviews, and create shopping lists of store items on Facebook, all while wandering through Macy’s stores. Terry J Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s, wishes to concentrate on the Gen Y demographic as he believes that they are soon to be the largest customer base in the industry, “This will be the single-biggest purchasing group, bigger than the Baby Boomers.” It is simple, from what surveys and market research has shown, this group are hungry for the next gadget, the newest technology and latest software that will change the way they live and work, they are progressive and often obsessive about it, so why not give the people what they want? Give them Augmented Reality cosmetic tutorial, give them “endless isles”, and give them the mobile interaction that will encourage their custom.

One of Macy’s biggest interactive programs in recent years was its “Backstage Pass” program launched last spring. The in-store feature enables users to snap QR codes in different departments to get expert advice from some of the brand’s celebrity partners. For example, you could snap a picture of a QR code in the shoe department to queue up a video of Jessica Simpson offering advice on how to wear stacked heels. The program was a success in-store and was the Launchpad for their jump into the latest in retail technology. Orlando Veras, Media Relations Manager for the store spoke about Backstage Pass last year, “Our customers are telling us they want to use our expertise in putting outfits together, and we have a great stable of celebrity designers that our customers look up to,” Veras explained.


Long-term plans for Macy’s outline the integration of cloud applications in-stores where customers can choose to permit Macy’s to use their mobiles numbers in order to communicate with them at point of sale. Senior manager Peter Sachse has high hopes for the use of cloud infrastructure in store explaining, “’The cloud will know what you browsed,’ and can recommend products and promotions based on what the customer has searched or bought.” Also, in relation to point-of-sale, several Macy’s stores have teamed up with Google Wallet in their new touch check-out platform.

We’ve seen what we can expect in the future of retail as regards smart shopping and Macy’s among others such as WalMart are well and truly up to speed. The world of Minority Report seems not too far in the distance!