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Is retail as we know it about to go out of Fashion?

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London Fashion Week is always a highlight in the m-retailing calendar. With my sartorial elegance and, as my colleagues wrongfully say, “your Nan’s coat” I cut quite a dash about the office. I am, as you can imagine, fashion personified.

But what I really like about London Fashion Week is that it is increasingly becoming a place where the other thing that us Brits are good at also gets an airing: mobile.

Next week the ginormous Mobile World Congress takes place out in Barcelona and while this should be the Christmas, Easter and Summer Solstice of mobile rolled into one frenzy of mobile love, this year I suspect that Fashion Week in drizzly London may have taken the prize.

Fashion Week, you see, is also a technology jamboree and many of the cool things that get showcased there in mobile have a direct or indirect impact on mobile retailing.

Last year, Tommy Hilfiger stole the show with its livestreamed Rock Circus event, which allowed fans to stream the event straight to their phones embedded click-to-buy functionality across its social media channels, letting viewers purchase products as they touched down on the catwalk. A Facebook AI chatbot offered users fashion advice and suggested other items to match their selections, and the retailer also developed an AR catwalk app to give consumers a unique, instantly shoppable experience.

This year we have seen that sort of thing become standard.

But what we really get from all this is that the role of mobile in shopping is changing. The “see it, shop it” idea is taking shape and it is going to really change retail as we know it.

While Sarah Flannery, Head of Display and Paid Social at Forward3D takes a look at what cool tech has been used at London Fashion Week and what it means for retailers, thoughts turn to the story we ran about Mashable and eBay back in January teaming up to allow people to buy what they see.

Always one to sniff out a trend, either in shoes or in mobile, I feel that something is afoot. The idea of searching online for things to buy is about to die. Shoppable catwalks and the ability to click on Obama’s jumper in a Mashable video to buy one just like it, are one and the same thing. And they are about to give birth not just to a new way for shoppers to shop, but a sea change in how retailers retail.

Once upon a time we sort out a retailer website to buy something and honed it down til we had what we wanted. Then we Googled it and found it on either a retailer website, a marketplace or a retailer app. Then we started to just look on Amazon and eBay as de facto shopping search engines. The next step – which all this Fashion Week and Mashable hoo-hah augers – is to just see something, point your phone camera at it and buy it.

This distributed retail model is going to be as profound a change on how retail works as the web has been. No longer will retailer brands matter. No longer, really, will marketplace brands matter. What will matter is the brand name of the goods (possibly), the price and the speed of delivery/collection.

Shoppers will of course still search for things (I would still be putting ‘Nan’s Coat’ into Google or Amazon, just try and stop me!), but I will also be shopping it when I see it on a real live Nan walking around. And will I care where it comes from? Probably not. I want it, not all the brand paraphernalia that goes with it.

This not only upsets the retail craft apple cart, but also shakes up what marketing and branding actually mean. I am sure they won’t go away, but they will significantly change.

It will also impact delivery and collection – we will see robots doing one-hour deliveries around town. We will see shops, stations, bars, restaurants and cinemas becoming collection points.

And we will see retailers biting the dust. Some of them at least. Who the winners will be in this retail new world order remains to be seen – the prize is there for the taking. But be warned, eBay is already on it and they know a thing or two about retail.

IMAGE AdinaVoicu at Pixabay

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