Tag Archives: online

Technology In Fashion Retail

I wrote earlier this year about changing retail habits and the resulting empty malls, or dead malls as they have sometimes been labeled. More people are ordering goods online and having them delivered directly to their home. That is all well and good for batteries or electronics, but how do you shop for clothes and fashion accessories online? How can you tell if something is going to fit or if it will look good on you without going to a store to try it on? What is the future of fashion retail? Will retail clothing stores fold completely, or will they revamp their offerings to stay relevant in the digital age? How will technology play a role in fashion and the shopping experience?

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Pokemon Go introduced us to augmented reality by placing on-screen characters in the physical world. Retail stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are working with developers to trade Pokemon characters for clothing and accessories. New technology such as Memory Mirror is being developed to allow someone to try on clothes without actually trying on clothes, at least not repeatedly. Memory Mirror will be a kiosk which looks like a mirror but can be controlled by hand gestures or voice commands and has icons for changing color or size. It can even project accessories such as various belts or handbags. It will connect to social media so shoppers can send pictures of themselves in the new outfit to their friends for a thumbs up or thumbs down. This technology is designed to limit wardrobe changes, which tend to drive customers out of a store. Products such as Zugara’s Virtual Dressing Room has partnered with Microsoft Kinect to create a similar product, but their offering will be available as a web app as well so you can see how online merchandise may look on you before buying. Most of these products are in development but promise a functioning product soon.

In this case, the old department store may turn into a giant dressing room but all of the sales channels will need to be synchronized so a person can buy the clothing while shopping, or order it online via smartphone. From first encounter to purchase, the technology will need to work flawlessly to provide a seamless shopping experience.

Visual Search

Visual search lets you search via an image as opposed to text. With modern smartphones, a shopper can capture an image of an item and search online for the best price for that particular item. This is bad for brick and mortar retailers because it turns their stores into showrooms without sales, especially if the shopper can find the item cheaper on Amazon or Zappos. The retailer is paying to display the merchandise but without the resulting benefits. GPS technology could turn that around for them. If the search engine knew that a customer was standing in Macy’s, for example, it could push the store higher in the search results and possibly offer a coupon for being a loyal customer. In this case, technology would enhance the traditional shopping experience by keeping the customer focused on your store.

Look

The new Amazon Echo Look, which is currently available by invitation only, promises to be your style assistant as well as a hands-free camera. As an extension of the Amazon Echo, you can take hands-free full length photos of yourself with depth perception technology and store those photos for comparison. You can get a second opinion of your outfit by something called Style Check “…a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists.” If I were a retailer I would try to find a way to insert ads to push Alexa to recommend my physical or online stores.

Thoughts

It’s not clear if retail stores will ever regain their preeminent position, but just as fashion trends change, so does the way we interact with these stores. Whether it be online through a computer or smart phone or actually talking with a sales clerk, we have more choices than ever before as to how we buy fashion.

Do you still visit stores to browse or buy clothes or do you purchase strictly online? What would draw you back into a store? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The End of Cyber Monday

Photo of a young woman in a clothing store looking at her phone.As I write this blog entry, we are still two weeks away from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. While I believe the first two will continue into the future, I think the term Cyber Monday has become irrelevant, largely due to technology changes, and will end this year. In this post I will lay out my reasoning for predicting its demise and invite you to give me feedback as to whether you believe Cyber Monday is doomed.

History

The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by Shop.org, the digital arm of the National Retail Federation. Shop.org also runs the website Cybermonday.com in which they invite participating retailers to share their Cyber Monday shopping deals. The term refers to the Monday after Black Friday when the most online Christmas shopping is done. It was not true in 2005 but was by 2010. Now it is only one of many large online shopping days reaching back into mid-October.

Technology

I believe that the biggest threat to Cyber Monday is technology. The theory was people would go to work on Monday after the long Thanksgiving weekend and purchase all of their remaining Christmas items online using the faster company internet connection. That is now irrelevant for two reasons:

  1. Home internet connections are now fast enough to stream digital content such as movies so they are more than adequate for shopping.
  2. More people are shopping now from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet so they do not need to be tied to the home or office internet connection.

The term “showrooming” was coined to define the practice of visiting a store to view merchandise before ordering it online at a lower price. Best Buy has been referred to as the showroom for Amazon. In theory, you could even stand in a brick and mortar store and order the same product online through your smartphone. I think this practice will decline as we get closer to price parity between online and traditional retailers.

Web sites and apps such as Buyvia.com and Dealnews.com have taken the steam out of Cyber Monday by advertising a wide range of retail deals 365 days a year. I can define my product search and get alerts as to the best price and retailer, regardless of whether it is on Thanksgiving weekend.

Timing is everything

Retailers are creating shopping events earlier and earlier. I can already see “leaked” Black Friday ads from several retailers even though Thanksgiving is still several days away and Christmas is more than a month away. Soon we could have our Christmas shopping done in September, eliminating the whole holiday rush of late November and early December.

Thoughts

I realize that retailers will continue to roll out special deals on certain days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but I think that technology advances and the way that we choose to do business will make these exclusive days less of a bargain.

Am I just being a Scrooge or am I on to something? Is technology changing how and when we shop? Has Cyber Monday become irrelevant? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Educational Trends: MOOCs Revisited

shutterstock_100060127In the education community there was a lot of talk over the past two years about MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. Some saw it as a panacea for delivering education to all at a low cost. Others believed it to be the next generation in online education. Many saw it as the beginning of the end of traditional universities and degrees.

There is not as much talk these days about MOOCs, so I set out to research why. Are they so mainstream now that they do not get press, or did they prove to be a passing experiment? Is the answer somewhere in between? I completed a MOOC last year and am scheduled to start another one in January, so I have an active interest in the trends.

Definition

A MOOC is an online college level course that is generally offered for free. Because there is no cost and no residency requirement they often attract thousands of students (thus, the “massive” in MOOC). There are three main providers: Coursera and Udacity, which are for-profit corporations; and EdX, a nonprofit organization founded by MIT and Harvard. There are also several smaller players. MOOCs are taught by college professors. There are usually no graded assignments and no college credit given, although this is changing. University of Washington started offering credit for enhanced MOOC courses in 2012. Enhanced means that there are additional assessments and a fee, in return for college credit. A press release from Antioch University in May 2014 announced that it will offer college credit for a Coursera MOOC, as the first school to purchase newly offered licenses. It will not be free, but Antioch officials say it will be less expensive than a traditional California university system course. Antioch is calling this a “facilitated MOOC,” so I suspect that they will be administering tests in a hybrid version of the traditional online course.

Detractors

Detractors of MOOCs point to the high dropout rate as evidence that this is a flawed experiment. In a recent online MIT physics course approximately 17,000 students enrolled but only 1,000 earned a certificate of completion. Interestingly, the research showed that students who completed the course progressed “comparable to what some MIT students showed when they were required to take the introductory course on campus.”

The argument against the value of MOOCs generally centers on the fact that because the course is free and no college credit is awarded there is no motivation to complete it. In other words, the reward of credit leading to a diploma is the only reason that students start and finish classes. The detractors claim there is no motivation to learn strictly for learning’s sake.

Supporters

Supporters point to the fact that college education is now available to anyone with an Internet connection. They say this levels the playing field between the haves and have-nots. To some extent this is true. There are many courses offered by Coursera, EdX, Udacity, and others, at little or no cost, that will enhance or replace a conventional college education for motivated students. The caveat is, as I pointed out above, the individual has to be motivated to learn and to progress for the sake of learning, knowing there will be no traditional diploma to show a prospective employer. There are certificates of completion, which may become currency in the future, but such credentials are not yet widely recognized.

Thoughts

Recent statistics compiled by Edudemic helped me understand the current landscape of MOOCs. This infographic illustrates who is enrolling in MOOCs and if they are getting a quality education. Here are some interesting statistics from the article:

Coursera now has 3.3 million students in 196 countries and sixty-two university partners.

  • 61.5% of students enrolled in a MOOC are from outside the US.
  • Brazil, China, India, Canada, and the UK boast high percentage of enrolled students.
  • 70% already have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 80% take other courses online for credit.
  • 50% are age twenty-six years or older.

MOOCs burst onto the scene in 2011 and the New York Times declared 2012 “The Year Of The MOOC.” In 2014, the number and range of course offerings, the number of students, and the quality of education delivered appear to have stabilized. Two questions remain in my mind: 1.) How do we engage students in a MOOC to increase the completion rate, and;  2.) What is the value of a MOOC certificate to a future employer? I will be watching this trend closely.

Have you taken a MOOC? What was your experience? Would you take another one? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.