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THE FUTURE OF MALLS: Personalized and Tailored Apparel (Series 3 of 4)

Both the apparel we wear and the shopping experience we enjoy are becoming more personalized.

Paco Underhill even writes of a shop in his wsj.com article The Future of Shopping in which a body scanner on a showroom floor would be linked to a magic box that cuts, stitches and glues to produce simple, basic clothing that pops out on the other side and that having these ‘bots’ know consumer measurements will enable retailers to offer a more highly-personalized shopping experience.

The ‘bot’ world is not that far away and keen retailers are already incorporating elements of personalization into their business models. Technology has indeed shortened the distance between the factory floor and the point-of-sale, as Underhill wrote. Bonobos (www.bonobos.com) is already disrupting the retail world with its unique model that offers a highly-personal experience. Does Bonobos operate retail stores? No. They operate Guideshops that offer a unique, personalized shopping experience in which an adult beverage can be enjoyed while a Guide walks the “client” through the merchandise to discover the perfect fit. The clothing the client chooses to purchase are then shipped to their home or office. As Bonobos says, “You walk out hands-free.”

With a perfect fit of clothes suited especially for their clientele, Bonobos does offer a highly-personalized experience. However there is a larger message in the Bonobos model; the #1 reason retailers fail is that they forget who their customers are. This is not the case with Bonobos. They know that their core customers are men who typically do not enjoy shopping. So, they created a highly-personalized (and incredibly smart) business model just for them.

Other sharp retailers will find success in taking advantage of this personalization trend. Maybe one day a retailer will figure out how to serve a time-starved stay-at-home mom and her kids. The children’s apparel category is weak and most children’s apparel retailers force mom to navigate her stroller through a series of packed racks. It is a horrible model and a keen retailer will figure out a better, more personalized way.

What about shoes? Most shoe retailers force us to rummage through boxes to find a shoe we like. There will be a day when not only will we be able to get a custom fit but we will be able to personalize our shoe color and style.

The car industry is another type of business that could use an overhaul of its business model. There was a time when one would go into a dealership to order a car, picking color and options for a highly-personalized experience. Now we are forced to pick from a limited selection of colors and 2-3 option packages. Not only is this highly-depersonalized, but we are forced to go into a dealership and deal with what it is typically a terrible shopping and service experience. I imagine there will be a day in the near future when we will be able to pick not only the color, but also options and features from home and in essence custom-build our car from home.

Malls and retailers would be smart to ride the trend of personalization. Nimble retailers that customize will find much success. The same applies to malls and centers. If mall owners know their customer and incorporate elements of customization to improve the shopping experience, these mall and shopping centers will find a place in today’s crowded marketplace.


Source: www.wsj.com; Future of Shopping by Paco Underhill

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