Affordable luxury fashion lifestyle brand Rebecca Minkoff is working with QueueHop to re-imagine the retail store checkout experience. Rebecca Minkoff has been widely credited as a leader in digital innovation in the fashion industry. QueueHop has been working exclusively with Rebecca Minkoff's design and technology teams to redesign the checkout experience at its flagship store in SoHo, which went live on Dec. 1, 2016.
While self-checkout technology have existed for years across the consumer landscape (i.e. grocery stores), fashion retail has historically been hesitant to embrace the technology because of potential theft implications on higher ticketed items. QueueHop re-engineered the security tag to unlock the moment a payment is made via a shopper's phone or a QueueHop self-checkout kiosk. The technology empowers customers to be in control of their shopping experience, while effectively reducing lines, cart abandonment and the time associates need to spend at checkout. The QueueHop technology looks to redefine the traditional checkout format and bring back foot traffic to physical retail with the digitized experience.
Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff, said, "More and more we are seeing millennials want to be in complete control of their shopping, and that includes payment. We needed to continue finding ways to make her feel like she can have multiple experiences where she is in control. When we first opened our stores, we looked at enhancing the VIP shopping experience for our customer. Now with this new round of technology, we're looking at ways to perfect the in-store shopping experience to empower our customers to be able to shop on their own terms. By adding QueueHop to our toolbox, we are able to create a full-blown digital experience in our physical store which has not been tried in modern retail."
There are many benefits of the QueueHop technology, according to Lindon Gao, cofounder and CEO of QueueHop. "An average person will spend two years of their life waiting in line. That's pretty insane," Gao said. "By bringing QueueHop's self-checkout technology to retail, we hope to give back TIME to shoppers." But the technology doesn't just address the pain point of waiting in line. Gao notes that it provides "a way for a consumer, who may be intimidated by the shopping environment or may just not want to engage with store staff, to be in control of their shopping experience. By implementing the technology, QueueHop gives an opportunity for a retailer to better service those customers."
ShopTalk chief retail strategist Sucharita Mulpuru agrees. "[Self-checkout] gives people choice. I don't think Rebecca Minkoff completely eliminated humans from the store altogether, but rather they now give shoppers choice in how to complete a transaction," she explains. "Sometimes the store is busy and people just want to check out without talking to anyone. This allows you to do that. It allows you to complete your task faster and move on with your day. That is never a bad thing."
While self-checkout has seen strong penetration in certain retail verticals, luxury fashion has been slow to embrace the technology, and for good reason. "The price point is a little high, in my opinion, to support self-checkout and you lose the opportunity for cross-sells without human engagement," notes Paula Rosenblum, managing partner with research firm RSR. "On the plus side, I suppose the company can save on payroll and appeal to those customers who want to get in and out quickly."
It's possible, too, that the kind of technology used in store takes a backseat to the overall experience. "Best-in-class retailers believe that if their associates and managers are doing all the right things in the buyer's journey, then high-touch service, customer loyalty/rewards and clienteling become a moot point and a natural, assumed part of the overall experience," says Sahir Anand, principal analyst and vice president of research for EKN.
For Rebecca Minkoff, its Millennial customer demographic likely plays a key role in the potential for self-checkout success. "I do believe that Rebecca Minkoff's decision to introduce self checkout is driven by Millennials who want a stronger element of self-service in their buying experience because they like the independent-mindedness to shop and are already armed with product research or peer reviews," Anand explains.
Indeed, Anand's research on American Millennials discovered that 58 percent indicate that self-service has the highest influence on their shopping. "Would these self-service systems work in non-Millennial categories?" he says. "It can work in some store concepts like express stores and airport store concepts but not in the flagship stores where non-Millennial customers still value the personal touch."
Perhaps the importance and influence of Millennials have been overstated. "Most retailers are not yet targeting Millennials even though everyone talks about them," Rosenblum says. "They still don't have the money for a genuine luxury business. That honor belongs to Gen X and I think that segment has been under-analyzed, in terms of its preferences."
RSR's latest recent merchandising survey, to be published in February 2017, finds that a majority of retailers are being run by Gen X for Gen X "even as there's a lot of navel-gazing around appealing to other customers, and Boomers are still buying luxury, just fewer pieces," notes Rosenblum.
So is self-checkout in fashion, and especially luxury fashion, a trend to watch for in coming years?
"I believe it is minor crawl but not a trend," says Anand. "But if fashion and softlines can take experiential retailing to the next level by introducing self-service options like checkout and automated dressing rooms, then why not? I am all for addressing unique customer needs. If customers are positively inclined towards new technology that can better their experience, then the retailer should absolutely get behind it."
For Rosenblum, the Rebecca Minkoff deployment is "an interesting experiment" that may have trouble scaling. "The biggest risk the luxury sector has at the moment is a sense of commoditization, I think," she says. "This won't help that."
Mulpuru takes the most positive position on the future of self-checkout. "This is definitely something we'll see more of in the years to come," she notes. "The biggest problem with self-checkout is the loss prevention/theft concerns. Once that is resolved, it is a good thing and just gives shoppers more choice in completing a transaction."