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CASE STUDY Zara: augmenting its retail reality

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The Spanish fast fashion retailer Zara is at the forefront of innovation right now, using pop-ups and prototypes to test its plans. For example, it recently launched an augmented reality (AR) add-on to its app that allows shoppers to see the clothes they are perusing ‘come to life’.

The Zara AR app allows shoppers in store and online to hold the app over certain signs and see models wearing the clothes appear and move about on the screen in front of them. They can (and do) even talk about the clothes. Plus, naturally, all of the outfits can be purchased via a single tap of the app.

The app and the signage had a two-week initial run, and this all marks a big move in Zara’s attempts to take on fashion powerhouse Asos. It also marks out Zara as one of the first retailers actively to invest in AR and put it out there. It makes sense, the analysts insist. Augmented reality (AR) leads the way as the technology people most want to engage with, as half of UK consumers say they would be more likely to be loyal to a brand that offered them access to this type of visualisation experience.

Another move by Zara that’s noteworthy is its opening of a store at Westfield Stratford City in London that’s dedicated to click and collect orders. The 2,150sq ft store, which opened in January 2018 for a four-month run, has been acting as a pop-up unit during the refurbishment and extension of the company’s existing flagship store at the centre. Staff are equipped with mobile devices to assist customers who will receive orders on the same day if ordering before 2pm – or the next day if ordered later.

The store also includes technology to help recommend items to customers with information screens embedded into mirrors triggered by RFID. It can also deal with returns and exchanges.

The pop-up is open until May, from which point the newly extended flagship store will also include a dedicated click and collect section within the store and an automated online-order collection point serviced by two small warehouses. These will enable customers to collect online purchases when it suits them.

It’s a system designed around an optical barcode reader, which scans the QR code or accepts the PIN codes received by customers when they place orders online. In just a few seconds, it delivers the order to a mailbox from which the customer can collect it. Behind the scenes, a dynamic robot moves through a small warehouse with the capacity to handle 2,400 packages simultaneously.

These developments come at a price, naturally: in 2017 the group invested €1.8bn in capital expenditure, focused “on significantly boosting the development of its integrated and sustainable model of stores and online”.

This piece first appeared in the IREU Top500 Strategy & Innovation Dimension Performance Report. Click here to explore the IREU Top 500 and IRUK Top500 series further.

Image courtesy of Zara

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